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Out for a spin — Polaris crew test riding snowmobiles in Rugby area

By Staff | Dec 12, 2008

Polaris snowmobile test rider Jeff Johnson said you have to go where the snow is.

And for the past month that’s been the Geographical Center of North America.

Johnson and nine other Polaris employees have been in the Rugby area, taking advantage of the significant snow on the ground to test ride sleds.

“Over the years we’ve been all over (test riding), Alaska, northern Canada, but it just happened this year that we had snow closer to home,” Johnson said.

Home is Roseau, Minn., where Polaris has a large plant and employs about 2,500 workers.

The test team brought all of the company’s production line, including next year’s models, to test ride. Riders put on about 200 miles a day. The riders have been able to use the local trail system as well as just riding in the open country.

The crew was here a few weeks before Thanksgiving and then recently returned to do more testing.

Johnson and fellow rider Ryan Santl have been with Polaris for 11 years. “
Working in 40-below weather isn’t great, but for the most part it’s a fun job,” Santl said.

Johnson agrees. “I get paid to do something (ride snowmobiles) that a lot of people have to pay to do,” he said.

The crew has been staying in town, and their large enclosed snowmobile trailers parked in the motel parking lot are hard to miss. Johnson said occasionally they get someone stopping by to ask what they’re up to.

No strangers to Rugby

This isn’t the first time Polaris has tested sleds in Rugby. Four years ago a crew of riders was here in late fall.

Once there is more snow back home, the crew will pack up. Johnson notes some will head to the mountains to ride and see how new models perform in that type of terrain.

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