MEDINA, MN (Feb. 17, 2011) – Polaris snowmobile developers consider the unforgiving terrain in remote areas of Alaska as the ideal place to put sleds to the test. That’s why for more than 50 years, Polaris engineers, development technicians and racers have braved harsh weather and challenging snow and ice to test and race in Alaska.
The beneficiaries of these Alaska trips are recreational Polaris riders. They have long enjoyed Polaris Terrain Domination on sleds that successfully crossed Alaska on test trips and won more Iron Dog cross-country snowmobile races than any other brand.
When Edgar Hetteen, one of the three original partners in Polaris Industries, wanted to make headlines with the company’s new snow machines in the late 1950s, he headed to Alaska. When Polaris wanted to demonstrate its then-new rubber tracks could match or exceed the performance of cleated tracks in 1978, test riders headed to Alaska.
In 2011, Polaris provided all-new 600 Switchback® Adventure™ models – the first “Adventure Snowmobiles” – to the Iron Dog Ambassadors, who rode the challenging Iron Dog race route to promote the race and thank volunteers in remote villages that help the race succeed. Three 2011 Iron Dog Ambassadors rode the new 600 Switchback Adventure from Big Lake to Nome and beyond. For the 2012 race, the Polaris-sponsored Iron Dog Ambassadors intend to run the full length of the race, from Big Lake to Nome, then to the finish line in Fairbanks, on PRO-RIDE™ performance models.
Historic Polaris experiences in Alaska over the years have included:
Edgar Hetteen, one of the three original partners in Polaris and the president in 1960, wanted to achieve something spectacular to prove the relatively new vehicle called the snowmobile was a viable product, so he headed to Alaska. Hetteen, Earling Falk, and Rudy and Bessie Bilberg rode 1,200 miles across Alaska in 21 days on Polaris Sno-Traveler snowmobiles. At the time, it was the longest and most significant unsupported trip ever successfully completed by snowmobile, and it generated headlines worldwide for Polaris. At that time, snowmobiles were still viewed primarily as utility machines, but Polaris quickly began marketing them as winter recreational vehicles.
Polaris President Allan Hetteen and staff member David Pearson were airlifted onto glacial fields near Mt. McKinley to test the Comet, a 1964 model that would be the first front-engined Polaris snowmobile. The sled performed extremely well on Alaska’s hard-packed snow and ice fields. Unfortunately, it did not perform as well in snow conditions common across North America’s snowbelt, and the 1964 Comet was deemed a failure. However, the lessons learned through the Comet experience aided the development of the Mustang, which became one of the most sporty and popular Polaris models of the leaf-spring front suspension era.
An epic journey of several hundred miles that started at Alaska’s extreme northern tip proved the reliability and performance of the Polaris rubber track. Bow Crosby and Ray Monsrud, snowmobile racers and members of the Polaris snowmobile development team, started riding at Point Barrow and followed the western Alaskan coastline, finally stopping in Unalakleet “when we ran out of snow.” The pair towed cargo sleds carrying their supplies (fuel, food, spare parts, sleeping bags, etc.), and frequently slept in villages schools along the way.
They rode 440cc fan-cooled Polaris Galaxy models, which had leaf spring front suspensions and the company’s first production rubber track. A major goal of the trip was to prove the durability of the new track to Alaskans. Traditional tracks with metal cleats tracks didn’t work well on the frozen tundra because the cleats broke, but this trip showed the new rubber tracks were durable and worked well in the Alaskan wilderness.
Eleven members of the Polaris senior management team were joined by two of the company’s original three partners, David Johnson and Alaska veteran Edgar Hetteen, on a trip that retraced Hetteen’s historic 1960 journey. The group covered 800 miles in eight days aboard Indy Sport snowmobiles.
Polaris introduced the all-new 2012 600 Switchback Adventure on the Polaris-sponsored Iron Dog Ambassador Ride. Three Ambassadors rode this new model from the start of the Iron Dog race in Big Lake to Nome, where Trail-class teams finished. They attempted to run the second half of the race, but were forced back to Nome by a winter storm and treacherous ice and water conditions along the coast. The new sleds, which featured the Adventure Cargo System with Polaris-exclusive Lock & Ride® technology, delivered trouble-free performance in extremely challenging conditions.
Tyler Huntington and Chris Olds used determination, tremendous riding skills and Polaris Terrain Domination to win their second-straight Iron Dog race across Alaska. They won the grueling, weather-battered 2,000-mile race on a pair of 2011 Polaris 600 RUSH snowmobiles. Four of the top seven Pro Class teams to finish were on Polaris snowmobiles. Through 2011, the Iron Dog race has been run 27 times and Polaris teams have won it 13 times, the most of any brand. Those wins include the past three races, as Polaris racers Huntington and Olds won in 2010 and 2011, and Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad won in 2009.
Polaris is a recognized leader in the powersports industry with annual 2011 sales of $2.7 billion. Polaris designs, engineers, manufactures and markets innovative, high quality off-road vehicles (ORVs), including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and the Polaris RANGER® side-by-side vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and on-road electric/hybrid powered vehicles.
Polaris is among the global sales leaders for both snowmobiles and off-road vehicles and has established a presence in the heavyweight cruiser and touring motorcycle market with the Victory and Indian motorcycle brands. Additionally, Polaris continues to invest in the global on-road small electric/hybrid vehicle industry with Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) and Goupil Industrie SA, and internally developed vehicles. Polaris enhances the riding experience with a complete line of Pure Polaris apparel, accessories and parts, available at Polaris dealerships.
Polaris Industries Inc. trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “PII”, and the Company is included in the S&P Mid-Cap 400 stock price index.
Information about the complete line of Polaris products, apparel and vehicles accessories are available from authorized Polaris dealers or anytime at http://www.polarisindustries.com.