When it comes to our snowmobiles, the prevailing belief is that less is more. This is especially true for powder riders who view unnecessary sled weight with the same enthusiasm as cancer. If you have been looking at the current fleet of mountain-specific snowmobiles for 2009, you’ll notice that suspension springs and torsion rods have been surgically removed in favor of lightening rear suspensions – Arctic Cat’s M-Series is a perfect example of this.

The Minnesota-based snowmobile manufacturer may reside in the flatlands, but this company counts among its engineering and product staff some extremely experienced and knowledgeable mountain powder experts. When Arctic Cat’s western contingent of customers speaks, these folks listen. What they have been hearing is the normal powder rider lament of more power, less weight. Arctic Cat responded with a 2009 rear suspension that booted 20 pounds from its design.

All three Arctic Cat 2009 M Series models – the M6, M8 and M1000 – incorporated what Cat marketing folks call ‘lightweight trickery’ to make its mountain sleds some of the lightest in the sport. One key feature is a revamped FLOAT rear suspension, which eliminated the rear torsion springs in favor of a springless Fox FLOAT air shock.

Benchmark Alpha

But when it comes to pure mountain trickery, we looked to Holz Racing Products of Lynden, Wash. This is a company that earns its money creating and refining play products for serious powder riders. A decade ago Holz developed its first coil over rear suspension that has served as a benchmark in the aftermarket suspension business. The company’s latest design is intended to carry powder players further into the steep and deep world of powder play.

The use of latest design Fox Float air spring shocks reduces weight in the AlphaX design. (Photo courtesy of Holz Racing Products)The use of latest design Fox Float air spring shocks reduces weight in the AlphaX design. (Photo courtesy of Holz Racing Products)

Holz Racing Products’ new Alpha-X rear skid may well redefine powder suspensions as it features all new geometry for optimum traction and weight transfer. Holz claims its AlphaX works without subjecting the rider to unwanted wheelies.

Arctic Cat told Snowmobile.Com that its engineering staff and Holz did not work together on creating Cat’s latest designs, but when you compare the two side by side, you will see that great suspension engineering minds obviously think alike. Gone are weighty coil over shock springs and long-armed torsion springs seen on previous rear suspension setups.

On Snow Tuning

Both Holz and Arctic Cat designs rely on Fox Shox latest air spring designs. Because the shocks use internal air pressure springing instead of external coil-over-spring assistance, they offer an immediate weight savings. There is less complication as powder riders can make on-snow suspension adjustments by simply resetting the Fox Float shocks’ pressure. Say good-bye to needing extra coil springs.

The Holz design relies on the latest Fox Float Evol shock on the suspension’s rear arm. Holz engineers deemed the standard Fox Float suitable for the front arm.

Arctic Cat’s 2009 M-Series models dropped weight partly due to new suspension design.Arctic Cat’s 2009 M-Series models dropped weight partly due to new suspension design.

When we chatted with a powder-riding friend who has a Holz AlphaX, he said he was impressed. We wondered about the suspension’s on-snow serviceability. He claimed that it actually was easier to make adjustments on this setup than on fully sprung designs. According to our mountain rider friend, the two biggest concerns were in stripping snow buildup off the shock air caps and then making sure to add a few extra pounds per square inch when pumping the shock up as there seemed to be a brief blow back of pressure when disconnecting the pump. It’s the same effect you get when you fill up a car or bike tire.

Ironically, our friend liked the air shock rear suspension just fine, but he prefers traditional spring-assisted shocks on his mountain sled’s front suspension. He likes the front end ‘feel’ better with the coil-over-shock. Interestingly Arctic Cat’s M-Series also use Fox Float air spring shocks up front. We’ll have to keep our eyes open to see what Arctic Cat does for its 2010 mountain line. We have to believe that our friend isn’t alone in his attitude about front suspension setups.

Arctic Cat’s mountain skidframe dropped springs to reduce weight.Arctic Cat’s mountain skidframe dropped springs to reduce weight.

Overall, our powder riding buddy is very impressed with what Holz has done in rear suspension design.

Alpha Advantages

Holz states, “The Fox Float Evol rear track shock with its dual-stage air spring allows you to adjust ride height independent from bottoming resistance.”

The shocks feature an externally adjustable high and low speed compression and rebound that give riders infinite tuning options.

Holz’ AlphaX rear suspension is a bolt-in kit. The company offers versions for various Polaris and Ski-Doo mountain sleds. The AlphaX features tig-welded, chromoly construction with grease-able delrin bushings for maximum service. The durable, high quality powdercoat finish can be ordered in black or red.

According to Holz Racing Products, this kit will fit 2006 through 2008 Polaris IQ/RMK models. Available rails will fit the design to 2009 Polaris models and for 155″ or 163″ track lengths. You should contact Holz Racing Products for specific information before ordering.

Latest Ski-Doo powder suspension has been lightened but retains springs to assist shock travel.Latest Ski-Doo powder suspension has been lightened but retains springs to assist shock travel.

If you want the latest in powder-blasting suspension design, check out the AlphaX from Holz Racing Products. The company claims exceptional weight savings, ride quality and increased traction and says you should expect superior performance in deep snow and hill climbing where the improved geometry and damping of the shocks keep the track on the snow and driving forward

But, it should be noted that Holz also strongly suggests that customers install ice scratchers with the AlphaX suspension as premature hyfax wear will result without them.

The Holz Racing Products web site lists the kit’s suggested retail price as US$2,500. The kit includes the front and rear torque arms, bottom scissor and linkage rod, Fox Float front shock, and Fox Float Evol rear shock.

Based on positive rider feedback and the fact that Arctic Cat’s new M-Series features a similar concept, we expect that Holz Racing Products not only has established a new benchmark, but that it will be copied to one extent or another as powder riders settle in with this concept of less weight and improved powder performance.