Let’s face it, snowsledding through the Maine wilderness is not everyone’s cup of tea. The machines are noisy. And, according to snowmobile writer Rod Fraser, “a two-stroke driven snowmobile emits more pollution than a car.”
Technologically, though, modern gas-powered snow machines have a come a long way since my first SkiDoo, a smoke-puffing, rattling 12-horsepower “one lunger.” The new ones are relatively quieter, cleaner running and far more reliable when it comes to cold weather operation, and they go like the wind, which can be a mixed blessing. In the early days of Maine snowsledding, a fatality on the trail was a rarity. Sadly, that is not so today. In fact, the rate of death and injury taking place on our snowmobile trails is tragic, if not scandalous. The deadly combination of speed, alcohol and bad judgment is killing and maiming too many in a recreational sport that is supposed to be fun and relaxing.
If the winter trail statistics continue unabated look for some kind of societal intervention, whether it be in the form of regulatory legislation or vastly heightened law enforcement.
Meantime, the march of technology is likely to alter or enhance the snowsled experience, and perhaps find ways to make it safer for all.
An article to appear in the March issue of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, written by Fraser, caught my attention. It relates to all of this. Fraser reports that a company in Montreal, Taiga Motors, has created a line of electric snowmobiles! “The Taiga is extremely quiet, and unlike the astronomically priced electric cars, the cost of a Taiga ($15,000) is close to what the higher end new sleds are going for,” Fraser writes.
Taiga, according to Fraser, engineers every system to precisely balanced performance, weight, cost and reliability for the most demanding power sport applications. The electric snowsleds are lightweight, under 500 pounds, and come with integrated GPS. Taiga Motors says that it will be delivering a line of snowmobiles to meet the needs of all riders.
The obvious question is this: How far can this electric snowsled travel on a charge? This would be my first concern if I were snowsledding far off the beaten path with no access to electricity for a recharge. According to Fraser, though, the Taiga can go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds and has a range of 60 miles of trail riding on a charge. That’s pretty good! A full recharge takes about two hours of plug in time. An 80 percent recharge takes 20 minutes.
There’s no question that this breakthrough in snowmobile engineering is worth watching. It’s not likely to change the snowsled market overnight, but it will fill a niche. As Fraser notes, the pollution-free aspect of the Taiga may open the market to a new group of environmentally conscious people who never cared for the noise and the blue smoke in their winter wilderness experience.
Whatever your take, you must admit that the idea of a silent sledding experience through the Maine woods after a fresh snowfall has an allure. You can find Taiga Motors and see its products at www.Taigamotors.ca.