Sooner or later, all this rain is going to turn into snow. Now is the time for snowmachiners to start getting their machines ready to ride the powder, because it's not that far away.
Small motor shops and snowmobile retailers across Alaska are beginning to see business pick up as snowmachine owners begin filing in to get their engines tuned up or to get parts to do the tuneups themselves.
"People are coming in and they're buying oil, belts and plugs," said Linsey Wolfe, the office manager at Arctic Motor Sports in Soldotna. "Basically stuff to do tuneups on their machines or any replacement parts they might have broken last year and haven't worked on during the summer."
She said she has seen business pick up this week, and expects it to continue through the new year.
"This week is when things start kicking into high gear," Wolfe said. "Our pre-orders (for new machines) come in and dividend checks come in."
Soldotna business owner Adam Dang has been riding snowmachines for almost three years since moving from Hawaii. He owns Caribou Hills Adventures, a snowmachining rental and guide operation, that takes customers out to the hills in the winter to ride. He said he's anxious for the first snow.
"I can't wait," he said. "I watch for the snow to fall every day now."
In preparation for adequate weather, Dang said he makes sure his machines are tuned up. But he said he won't take customers out unless there is 12 inches of snow or more on the ground. He said riders should have appropriate equipment for riding.
"They should have thick jackets, thick pants, snow boots, a face mask and helmets," Dang said.
Dang takes his machines to a professional shop to have them tuned up, but many snowmobile owners like to do the mechanical job on their own.
Steve Verba of Verba's Hilltop Machine in Soldotna ran over the important things snowmachiners should attend to.
"Grease everything," he said. "Check your spark plugs, look at your belts, align your skis. Change the chain case oil if you didn't do it in the spring and grease and adjust your track.
"If you have old gas in it, take it out and make sure you have new gas. That's the biggest cause for blowing your engine -- not having enough octane."
He also said to make sure that the machine's ball bearings are not seized or dry and to replace the spark plugs.
Verba said he has been riding snowmachines since 1971, and he has seen a wealth of changes come to the vehicles in that time.
"There's so much stuff on the market it's unreal," he said. "You spend more on extras than you do on the machine. You can boost horsepower by adding pipes, you can get clutch kits, and you can increase the length and size of the track."
Verba said he is amazed by the length of tracks being offered today.
"Now they got a 159-inch track," he said, "when 121 used to be the standard and a long track was 136. I don't know when the end is."
Verba suggested one new addition that would add more traction to snowmachines.
"It's a new lug design called a finger track," he said. "It's like a bunch of fingers sticking out instead of paddles."
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