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Revving through the snow

It's the time of the year when wide-open throttles are racing through the minds of many snowmobile riders.

Kugluktuk's Colin Niptanatiak knows his way around a snowmobile, as a rider, racer, and as someone possessing the knowledge to keep it running mechanically. photo courtesy of Angulalik Pedersen

Aaron Tartak is one of them. He's in Edmonton taking a heavy equipment mechanic course until Dec. 17, but then it will be back to Rankin Inlet and time to climb aboard his Polaris machine.

"Oh yes, I'm very eager," Tartak said.

He enjoys snow-cross racing, covering a broad area of snow and ice with some challenging turns at a rapid pace.

Fellow racer Colin Niptanatiak of Kugluktuk prefers Bombardier snowmobiles because he finds them reliable – and he needs reliability because he can put on more than 1,000 km over weekends when he takes trips out on the land.

He's also been competing in snow drags and snow-cross for many years and he's won his share of races. At age 40, he joked that it's getting harder to roll out of bed, let alone absorb the jolts of racing on a high-powered machine. Nonetheless, he'll be at the starting line again this season, he said.

Niptanatiak, who has been riding since age 10 or 11, said properly maintaining snowmobiles is crucial to peak performance. He makes sure to drain the fluids at the end of each season to avoid getting water in his gas tank and he loosens the track to prevent it from cracking.

Tartak is also meticulous in servicing his machine seasonally.

"Usually I go through all my bearings and grease all my slider bushings before winter, getting it ready to ride," he said.

Juanisie Etidloi of Cape Dorset, who has 18 years of snowmobile experience at age 30, took small-engines training years ago and uses his skills to keep his, and others', machines running. Like Niptanatiak, he is fond of Bombardiers and owns four of them. He will purchase older or damaged machines to fix them or use them for parts.

While Etidloi isn't a racer, he puts a lot of kilometres on his snowmobiles when he goes hunting. For that purpose, he said he likes fan-cooled machines more than liquid-cooled because he finds the latter tend to overheat.

For winter storage, he'll store his snowmobiles in an elevated location, off the ground, to avoid having the track get frozen into the ice and possibly damaged, he said.