It may not be the time of year to plan a weekend of riding the snow trails. However, it is the time of year to dream — and Polaris Industries has given people another reason to think about the good side of snow season.
Polaris is upping its game by reducing weight. The recreational vehicle maker recently introduced a snowmobile for the mountains that weighs just 408 pounds.
The 2016 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK 155 snowmobile chops 9 pounds off last year’s mountain model; it’s 32 pounds lighter than when Polaris first began hacking weight from the engine, crank shaft and suspension five years ago.
The newest vehicle carries redesigned parts, more high-strength aluminum and sells for a suggested $13,200. Shipments to dealers begin in the fall.
Officials from the Medina-based company noted that the Pro-RMK features a raised-chassis to reduce drag and a quicker drive train to add “lift,” so drivers can easily conquer deep mountain snow. The design also boasts a new rear suspension system and Walker Evans shocks to give a rider better control and balance.
But the most novel thing is the 408-pound weight, said snowmobile experts who say Polaris’s new model will probably turn heads.
“Wow. That is really light. I have not heard of one that light for mountain riding. If it is that light, it would be a lot of fun to ride,” said Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA). “The lighter snowmobile lets you stay on top of the snow and … allows you to float. So, it is going to be well received. They will be talking about it.”
Polaris officials want more than talk. They hope to sell in “the low tens of thousands” of Pro-RMK 155s and want to recapture the company’s multimillion product development costs in about two years.
Nearly 103,000 snowmobiles of all kinds were sold in the United States and Canada last year, according to the ISMA. Polaris increased its worldwide snowmobile sales by 7 percent to $322 million last year. But only an undisclosed fraction of them are mountain snowmobiles.
Klim said competitors will check out Polaris’ newest beast. All manufacturers try to reduce the weight of their mountain snowmobiles so riders can achieve optimal handling, he said. Polaris, which competes with Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo in the mountain riding space, may now have the lightest product on the market. If so, others will be gunning soon for that same achievement, Klim said.
It took 30 Polaris designers and engineers from Polaris’ plant in Roseau, Minn., about four years to perfect the new machine. After field tests in the Rocky Mountains, Chile and Canada, Polaris debuted the Pro-RMK in West Yellowstone, Mont., on Jan. 30. It toured nationwide in March and April, and Polaris began taking orders for the product, which will take another six months to get to customers.
“We have been very happy with what orders have been so far,” said Andy Kroll, Polaris marketing manager for snowmobiles. “There is just a ton of rider excitement over this product.”
Polaris touts its creation as the lightest and strongest in the mountain snowmobile category. Strength is important because the machine must withstand rough snowy landings after some riders dart 10 to 150 feet through open air. “We are proud of the powerful, lightweight new 800 Pro-RMK 155,” said Chris Wolf, vice president of Polaris Snowmobiles.
Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski said he is prouder of the fact that the machine is made in his hometown, where it has sustained jobs.
The new snowmobiles will be made to order by more than 94 Polaris workers in the plant. An enthused Pelowski celebrated that fact by declaring April 8 “Polaris RMK Day.”
“We salute Polaris for its legendary engineering excellence and look forward to seeing what products Polaris develops next,” Pelowski said.