Snowmobiling Going “Green”

There’s no doubt that snowmobiling has become a major force in outdoor recreation. As of 2010, snowmobiling was estimated to be a $28 billion dollar industry in North America alone. With that kind of cash fueling the industry, it was only a matter of time before the industry itself would have to make modifications in order to fall in line with environmental standards and a new generation of consumers looking for “greener” products.

Older snowmobiles are powered by a standard two stroke motor. Although these workhorses got the job done and offered plenty of recreational fun, it is estimated that recreational craft within the United States, such as snowmobiles and jet skis, produce over one billion pounds of hydrocarbon emissions every year. Why should you care? When these hydrocarbon emissions combine with sunlight and other environmental influences, they create ozone pollution. Excess ozone is a major component of smog and that nasty brown haze that plagues so many cities.

I’m no extreme environmentalist, but isn’t that what outdoor recreation is all about? Escaping the smog and haze and odd smells of the city in exchange for crisp mountain air and blue skies? Fortunately, snowmobile manufacturers have realized that by continuing to contribute to pollution with the use of two stroke motors, that we are ultimately contributing to the demise of the sport. On top of that, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun to require that recreational two stroke vehicles clean up their act.

To remedy the pollution issues caused by the inefficient operation of two stroke motors, four strokes are becoming the new “norm” for snowmobiles. Although it’s not what old school snowmobile enthusiasts are used to, the new four stroke motors provide a quieter ride without all that blue smoke and overwhelming smells. I know, I know…There’s nothing like the smell of gasoline in the morning, right? Your lungs will thank you for the change, though.

For individuals with older snowmobiles who aren’t quite ready for an upgrade, retrofit kits are becoming increasingly popular to improve the efficiency of two stroke motors while increasing efficiency. One kit, manufactured by Envirofit at Colorado State University has been so efficient that it’s even being applied to on-road vehicles overseas.

And for the diehards, Bombardier has completely broken the mold by developing the Evinrude E-TEC line of two stroke motors. These motors, in fact, meet Environmental Protection Agency standards while providing a high level of efficiency. As an added bonus, the E-TEC two stroke motors are intended to run for three years without any dealer service intervals.

In the long run, whether you consider yourself a member of the “green” movement or not, it’s easy to see that the transition to clean burning motors is a precursor to the continued success of the sport. Long live snowmobiling. And long live the earth.