Last month, my colleagues and I left for West Yellowstone, Montana, to attend the 2012 Snow Shoot. During this event, the four snowmobile manufacturers had the opportunity to present their upcoming models.
West Yellowstone is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in the Far West of the united states. The town is the closest gateway to one of the most beautiful national park in the world. As I have always found history and geology intriguing, the Yellowstone Park seemed to me like a very attractive place to visit. At the center of the world’s largest calderas, a volcano, still active to this day, erupted the last time about 600 000 years ago. It sculpted the land as we know it today with high summits and large flats with hundreds of geysers, including the Old Faithful. This famous geyser spits some 20 000 litres of water per hour. In 1852, this area became an official reserve, creating the first national park in the world. So, at the borders of this national treasure, the snowmobile trails criss-cross the scenery.
As expected, we saw many specimen of the local wildlife : coyotes, moose, enormous bisons. Some of these were outside the reserve and we even met one in the snowmobile trails, to our great surprise.
Furthermore, an eagle flew over us during a photo session; as you know, the eagle is the national symbol of the United States. He was very curious as we were on his territory. Our photographer, Steve, has been trigger-happy. Here is one of his best shots of this majestic bird.
The 2012 Snow Shoot
Arrived at destination, the manufacturers welcomed us at West Yellowstone Airport, located a few feet from the snowmobile trails. On site, each company proudly presented its 2012 snowmobile fleet. All this happened the first day, called «the tech day». We had the chance to meet with marketing managers and engineers and talk with them about the novelties and improvements brought to their products. Furthermore, we could ask questions and give our comments.
Very visible on the site, the representatives of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce took part of the trials as they provided volunteers who brought us food and fuel. For a small town of 1 200 inhabitants, the arrival of the manufacturers’ technical teams plus about 150 pilots in two weeks, gives a boost to the local economy in this low tourist season. We must say that the tourist industry represents 80 % of the regional economy; in summer time, close to 3 million people visit’s this small town.
Following the tech day, we spent the next four days in this charming scenery, testing about sixty 2012 prototypes. Each model has been successively tested and analyzed by our team of columnists. Afterwards, Steve Sirois, the official photographer of SledMagazine.com, took care of the photo session to offer you the best images of the 2012 snowmobiles.
One of the highlights of the trials has been the mountain segment, where adrenaline rises faster than the altitude. This year, we had the chance to ride with Carl Kuster, a professional rider for BRP and former Snow Cross Champion. He guided us on the most wonderful view points of Lion Head and Two Tops moutains.
Snowfalls have been aboundant this year in the Far West. About 80 inches of snow were covering the ground during our trials. Furthermore, snow was still falling, so we have been able to test the mountain sleds in winter conditions rather than the usual spring conditions. Our guide brought us to places where there was still fresh powder snow so that he could execute some very impressive manoeuvres.
After these wonderful trial days, our work continues with the compilation of data and with discussions about the results. The final product of all this work will be available in our 2012 Buyer’s Guide that will be published next fall. In the meantime, I will present you my favorite models in an article entitled «2012 Snow Shoot crushes». It will be online in a few days…