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ASV Factory Tour

by Dave Johnson
August 18, 2007

Summertime for dedicated trail groomers can be a very busy time.  Many groomers spend the summer preparing their trails so that the smallest amount of snow will still allow for good skiing.  This prep work includes picking rocks, spreading woodchips, raking and seeding bare spots.  Some very fortunate groomers spent a part of their summers traveling to exotic locations in the southern hemisphere in search of snow and trails to learn how folks on the “top half” of the world run a cross country ski area.

This groomer has been busy with trail preparation and the clearing of downed trees at both the Marshall School and Snowflake ski area.  The focus of this report though, is on my travels to Grand Rapids, Minnesota to visit the ASV Factory to learn more about a new tracked vehicle they are manufacturing, the Scout SC-50.  I first learned of the Scout SC-50 when a friend passed a web link along to me and mentioned that this new tracked vehicle might be a good option for pulling trail grooming equipment.  As soon as I saw the vehicle on the web I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about it.  I emailed the ASV factory and was put in contact with the Scout product marketing manager, Hannah Tanata.  I shared with Hannah the idea that the ASV Scout might make an excellent ski trail grooming vehicle and that I wanted to learn more about it.  Hannah invited me to the factory for a tour so that I could learn more about the Scout and so that she could learn from me more about the specific needs of nordic ski trail groomers.

Hanna Tanata with the ASV Scout

On Monday, August 6, 2007 I arrived at the ASV factory in Grand Rapids and noticed that the mailbox for the factory had a Track Truck™ painted on it.  I later learned from Hannah that the Track Truck was the original product created at the factory.  As many long time groomers know, the Track Truck is rear tracked vehicle with conventional front tires that was used for grooming of ski and snowmobile trails and by utility companies.  With the success of the ASV Posi-Track™ Loaders the company turned to the manufacturing of tracked construction vehicles.  In the landscaping and construction industry the ASV Posi-Track’s claim to fame is low ground pressure and a comfortable ride.

Looking to break into recreation and other non-conventional markets, ASV began to develop the Scout SC-50 tracked vehicle based off of the ASV Posi-track loaders.  They share similar low ground pressure tracks, a very beefy chassis, hydrostatic drive and similar engines.  On the tour of the assembly line I was able to see the Scout start as just a steel frame and make its way down the line to have all of its components installed.  The overall impression I had was that the Scout is very well built.  All components and parts are heavy duty, construction site ready, built to take a beating.  Having just returned from a trip to Germany and a visit to the Mercedes Benz factory in Stuttgart, it was interesting to note the differences in the two factories.  The Mercedes factory was all robots and fast paced.  In contrast the ASV factory was more relaxed with almost all of the assembly work completed by hand.

Treadmill for testing the scout

From a groomers point of view I think that the Scout SC-50 has the potential to be a great option for a grooming vehicle.  It is especially attractive for groomers looking for a year round vehicle.  In the summer I could see the Scout pulling a trail mower, leveling out areas with the front blade or hauling woodchips out on the trail in the rear dump box.  In the winter the Scout could easily pull a drag groomer such as an YTS Ginzu, Tidd Tech or Cragin groomer.  Most of these drag groomers have electric actuators for adjusting the cutting teeth and track setter. These would be easy to wire in or one could convert to hydraulic actuators and use the rear hydraulics on the Scout.

The Scout is robust, weighing in at 4,562 pounds, this translates into about 2.5 pounds per square inch of ground pressure.  With the current installed tracks I don’t see the Scout “floating” through deep snow like Snowflake’s old Tucker Sno-Cat.  ASV did test the Scout in snow last winter and found it to have excellent traction and handling.  I am very interested to try the Scout this winter on the trails and see first hand how well it works for grooming.

I think what I am most excited about is the possibilities to adapt the Scout more specifically to grooming duties.  First on my list would be wider tracks with more aggressive tread.  Hannah shared that she was exploring this idea with the company.  The second item on my list of options would be a hydraulic tiller/groomer sized for the Scout.  This tiller could handle manmade snow and icy conditions.  If such an accessory was to be developed I could see the Scout becoming the vehicle of choice for nordic ski areas.  The price ($35-40,000) is significantly less than a full size ski area groomer. Plus the Scout could be used year round, require less storage space and be much more versatile than a large Pisten Bully type groomer.

I really enjoyed my visit to the ASV factory.  Hannah is a great tour guide and she is very interested in the possibility of options and accessories to make the Scout even more attractive to nordic ski trail groomers.  I am looking forward to actually using the Scout on a ski trail to see first hand if my summer time impressions about the vehicle are accurate.  Stay tuned for a winter report and enjoy the slide show of my groomer’s day out!

Photoset from Dave Johnson: 14 photos

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