Beat the winter blues

Photos by Willy Williamson / Winnipeg Free PressPatrick Catellier, the owner of Pat’s Marine in Oakbank, takes a break from wrenching on a customer’s Ski-Doo. He recommends you bring along a friend or family member with snowmobile experience when shopping for a used machine.

Photos by Willy Williamson / Winnipeg Free Press

Patrick Catellier, the owner of Pat’s Marine in Oakbank, takes a break from wrenching on a customer’s Ski-Doo. He recommends you bring along a friend or family member with snowmobile experience when shopping for a used machine.

If all this recent snow has you wishing you could get out on the trail on a snowmobile, but you aren’t quite ready to drop the big bucks on a brand new sled, fear not, here in Manitoba there is always a great variety of good used machines for sale.

According to Patrick Catellier, a veteran power sports technician and the owner of Pat’s Marine in Oakbank, shopping for a used sled isn’t much different than shopping for a used car or truck.

“Budget is obviously going to determine a lot,” Catellier says, “once you’ve figured out how much you can afford and have found a model you like, a visual walk-around of the machine is the first step. You want to look closely for physical or cosmetic damage — this usually gives you a good indication of how the machine has been ridden and taken care of.”

Catellier also recommends you bring along a friend or family member with snowmobile experience who can help check more technical elements of the sled including engine compression, the condition of the clutches, suspension and skis. “Of course, I also want to hear it run and I want to take it for a short ride to make sure everything is operating right,” he says.

Just like used car and truck shopping, on snowmobiles with higher mileage, ask the seller if they have service records — you want to see visual proof routine maintenance has been done.

“A machine with higher miles that has been maintained from ski tip to snow flap may actually wind up being a better deal than a machine with low miles that hasn’t been properly maintained,” Catellier says.

As for the debate about whether or not you want a machine with a four-stroke or a two-stroke engine, Catellier says although four-stroke engines are typically more durable and tougher to break, they are usually more expensive to purchase initially, and when you do break one, it may break your wallet. Four-stroke machines are also usually heavier and more powerful — so for beginners, a two-stroke machine is probably a better place to start, and there’s a lot of variety in the used market to choose from.

To give you an idea of cost, back in about 2010, I purchased a clean used 2001 Yamaha V-Max Deluxe 600 with about 4,000 kilometres on the odometer from a friend for $2,800. I sold that machine to my nephew last year, and despite the fact it now has more than 16,000 kms, it is still running like a champ. My current sled, a 2013 Arctic Cat F570, which is presently worth about $3,500, is nearing 10,000 kms and still running strong — it starts on the second pull like clockwork. While I’m certainly not a professional technician, I can do the basic maintenance on either of these machines quite easily and no special tools are required.

Although Pat’s Marine specializes in Sea-Doo personal watercrafts, sports boats, Can-Am ATVs and Ski-Doo snowmobiles, the shop services all makes and models. If you can’t or don’t want to do the work yourself, the average repair bill at Pat’s, and likely at many other shops around the province for a pre-season snowmobile check, which covers a thorough inspection and typically involves a few replacement parts such as track sliders, carbide wear bars or a new drive belt, runs about $500.

The annual insurance for my Arctic Cat is about $300 per year, plus an additional $150 for a Snopass, which is required if you wish to travel on designated trails in Manitoba maintained by Snoman Inc.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, the fee helps to enhance recreational snowmobiling across Manitoba, as it supports the local Snoman member clubs that groom and maintain more than 12,000 kilometres of designated trails across Manitoba. Each year, about 25,000 snowmobiles are registered in Manitoba.

When I add up the cost of insurance, the trail pass and a modest amount of routine maintenance, it usually costs me about $750 to operate my snowmobile annually. My entry-level Arctic Cat is quite good on gas — I can ride around all day for about $25 in premium fuel and a couple of bucks’ worth of two-stroke oil.

Whether you’re in the market for a feisty performance sled you can rip around the trails on, a comfortable touring sled for some family fun or a utility machine to pull your ice shack out onto the lake, when it comes to used snowmobiles, Manitoba is loaded with great deals.

As an added bonus this winter, we have snow — a whole lot of snow!

Feel free to contact me if you have any snowmobile-related questions. It really is a fun hobby and a great way to beat the winter blues!

willy@freepress.mb.ca

Willy’s sled is an entry-level 2013 Arctic Cat F570 with a fan-cooled two-stroke engine, electric start and reverse. It is worth about $3,500.

Willy’s sled is an entry-level 2013 Arctic Cat F570 with a fan-cooled two-stroke engine, electric start and reverse. It is worth about $3,500.

This 2001 Yamaha V-Max Deluxe has more than 16,000 kms on it and it’s still running strong.

This 2001 Yamaha V-Max Deluxe has more than 16,000 kms on it and it’s still running strong.