21 Oct 2013

Above: Laird MacDougall ripping on a Powerhouse Custom build   |   Photo: Ron MacDougall

Article and other Photos by Tennille Barber

On Powerhouse Road down to the industrial area resides a family of shredders that make it their business to build custom sleds.  I find a lot of successful businesses in Revelstoke are family owned.  Ron specializes in custom chassis along with his son Laird’s help.  Janey runs the place like a top.  Aptly named for the road and the nature of the sled they turn out, the business has been in Revelstoke for a couple years now.  Not only building but riding and repping their product every weekend, you can find their ride reports on their website.  Let me tell you what puts the power in Powerhouse Customs.

chassis project on the table built around a Yamaha Nytro 3 cylinder Impulse engine

I walked into the shop to get some help with my dirtbike and ended up glad I hosed it off after my muddy ride.  The shop is immaculate.  That’s what I find with most innovators I meet.  It’s hard to design with a pile of junk on your bench.  I have a look at what he’s putting together.  He describes the footboards on the sled he’s building as the most time consuming.  He cuts and builds all the parts from scratch then tacks them together, sometimes taking it apart 2-3 times to make sure it’s perfect.  When the sled is finished, he disassembles the entire thing, then takes a day to 1.5 days to Finish weld it all together neatly.  After that there’s still one more process, a disassembly for powder coating, then it all goes back together again for the final time.

At the time of the interview, the chassis project on the table was built around a Yamaha Nytro 3 cylinder Impulse engine with turbo.  Those two things add up to 300+ horsepower.  Usually they construct their sleds around the Yamaha Apex 4 cylinder engine.  This customer already owned the 3 cylinder Impulse Nytro, and Ron will send the chassis, track and driveline down to let the customer finish it off.

“Alot of sledders are do-it-yourselfers.  They like to be involved in putting their sled together,” Ron tells me.  They’re always doing something I find cool or special or have never seen before in this shop.  That’s part of the fun when I walk into their bay on Powerhouse Road.

I took a picture of an Elka rear shock that’s laying on the floor.  $4200 worth of suspension.  They’ve been using this high quality part in their designs regularly for years.  He shows me a new piece of suspension that they’re excited to be using called the Raptor shock he expects to be even better than the Elka.  They were so happy with them last season he started ordering them to build into the rear.  Their preferred skis are USI Triple Threats, a special performance ski used for big mountain pow riding with adjustable blades for carving.

Using a Yamaha 4 stroke as the base for most of their builds, they get the sled, strip it apart, and use the engine, chain case, clutches, and shafts.  Basically the central mass of the drive line is all that makes it into the new chassis they build.  The weight of the snowmobile is pretty major.  A 2 stroke sled will usually be under 500lbs, with most people desiring a weight around 475lbs.  4 stroke engines usually push the weight just by the engine alone around 30lbs heavier, 30lbs more if you add in the complete turbo system.  Ron started building custom chassis in Calgary many years ago and has since learned there’s no sense in building something that can’t take the mountain’s abuse.  They run the 174- 16 wide 3 inch tracks, which are pretty heavy.  They could go for a lighter suspension he says but they don’t want to sacrifice the strength.

With a water to air cooling system, his son Laird’s new sled will end up being around 550lbs.  “That’s pretty light for a 4 stroke, turbo charged, 174 track sled,” he says.  He’s talking about a serious piece of machinery.  This is not your daddy’s long track prairie sled.  We’re talking about something that can rip the doors off your big truck, eat your lunch and take home your girlfriend.  Whatever you have the nerve to point this thing at, it will climb.  It kind of reminds me of a drag racing car with a track on it.  Its sharp features and attractive lines are prominent, a gang of these definitely wouldn’t go un-noticed on the mountain.  Here’s hopin amidst the building this year they get more than their share of powintheface.