Here in the Midwest, the snow pack is pretty disappointing so far and even non-existent in some areas. We got spoiled from last year’s amazing snow totals. It was the best snowmobile riding that we have had in recent years. In contrast, this year there are many sleds that still have yet to hit the trails and we are already half way through the season. But with that said, there is still some riding to be had!
There are still places where we can bring our sleds to ride, or you might even be one of the lucky ones to have enough snow to ride on where you live. In either case, you are most likely not going to find premium riding conditions. The trails are getting beat down and every inch of fresh powder is getting blasted through. This makes it difficult to keep your sled cool, especially the hyfax. That’s where ice scratchers come in.
Many long track riders are well aware of ice scratchers and what they do. The longer slides heat up much faster and can melt away much quicker than on a short track sled, even when there is a decent amount of snow. Now, with the little snow that we do have, even short track riders should consider running the trails with a set of scratchers installed.
For those who aren’t aware of what ice scratchers are, the name pretty much says it all. A set of ice scratchers is installed to the rails of your rear suspension with one on each side. The scratcher has a sharp tip that digs into solid snow pack and ice to create a “snow dust” or loose snow and ice chunks that is then thrown up into the rear suspension. This takes the place of the powder or loose snow that you would normally be riding through, which is needed to help cool the heat exchangers under the tunnel and the hyfax slides under the rails. The slides are there to protect your rails and are much easier and cheaper to replace than the rails, so you need to protect them as long as possible to protect the rails.
There are two main types of snowmobile ice scratchers available: rigid spring and spring steel cable. The rigid spring design may be the more productive design, but it also has its disadvantages. Since it is rigid and uses an actual spring, this design is able to produce a lot of down pressure on the ice to break it up and create more snow dust. The fact that it is rigid is also its downfall, though. The snowmobile cannot be reversed while these scratchers are down. They need to be lifted up onto the rail so that they do not catch and snap.
The cable design ice scratchers provide a much easier to use option. Because they are made with a cable, they are very flexible and can be down while the snowmobile goes in reverse. This gives the rider a little peace of mind because they don’t have to remember to pick them up every time the snowmobile goes backwards. The tips on the cable scratchers can be replaced, which makes them a good investment for long time use.
Whichever style you do choose, you will definitely see the advantages of having a pair of ice scratchers, especially with the poor riding conditions that we are having this year. Your snowmobile will run cooler and your slides will last much longer.