Skip to content Skip to navigation Skip to footer
  1. Articles
  2. Building Boost Part 4: The World’s Most Powerful OEM 2-stroke Turbo
Articles January 14, 2022

Building Boost Part 4: The World’s Most Powerful OEM 2-stroke Turbo

An Inside Look at Building The World's Most Powerful OEM 2-Stroke Turbo

The Jackson Hole World Championship Hillclimb is the marquee snowmobile event in the western United States, held every spring in legendary Jackson, Wyoming. Just saying the words ‘Jackson Hole’ to a snowmobile rider elicits images of high-horsepower mod sleds blasting through four-foot trenches, rock gardens, and tree roots all while trying to keep it between the gates. Years of practice, training, and wrenching lead up to 75 seconds of fame. One chance at the meanest hillclimb around.

 

Being named the King of Kings at the Jackson Hole World Championships is the elusive goal everyone is chasing each year. The short list of those who have achieved it reads as a who’s who of mountain snowmobiling – with names like Kirk Hibbert, Carl Kuster, Rick Ward, Kyle Tapio, and Keith Curtis. Hailing from Dillon, Montana, Keith has a record six King of Kings titles in Jackson, and is currently the back-to-back reining champion. His RMKs are always near the top at a regular RMSHA race, but he is damn near unbeatable at Jackson Hole. Keith was one of the perfect racers to test some new engine technology.

 

Racing provides a unique testing environment for new technologies. It is some of the hardest use cases a snowmobile will see, with the sleds being pushed beyond the limit by the best riders. Moreover, the laps are rather repeatable, with changes from one run to the next being easier to measure.

Two Polaris Snowmobile riders getting ready to ride
Two Polaris Snowmobile riders getting ready to ride

Heading into the 2018/2019 hillclimb season, the team in Roseau began implementing Medusa components and controls in the Open Mod entries of select Factory Polaris racers. The goal was to use the unique aspects of racing to provide quick results and feedback, both from the engine’s data loggers, and the racers themselves.

 

“The big focus right away was evaluating the controls strategy in extreme environments. How did the way we were controlling boost pressure, the wastegate, engine, and more affect the performance of the sleds.” said Buchwitz.

 

As with any type of innovating, some of it provided a performance improvement, and well – some of it did not.

A Polaris Snowmobile Racer using binoculars
Racing up a snowy mountain
Keith Curtis getting ready to race
Polaris Snowmobile Factory Racer in action
A Polaris Snowmobile Racer using binoculars
Racing up a snowy mountain
Keith Curtis getting ready to race
Polaris Snowmobile Factory Racer in action

“In the early days, we were really flirting with the fine line of performance, with lots of successes and some setbacks.

It wasn’t long before we had something really exciting.” said Keith Curtis, Polaris Racer.

 

In harmony with the rest of the work the development team was doing, the Medusa race sleds continued to improve. The control strategy and some preliminary hardware was performing well on the track, with frequent changes being made to continue pushing the envelope. The results came along with, and hopes were high for the 2020 race season. The plan was to continue developing components and designs with the racers, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. Like most else, the bulk of the RMSHA hillclimb season was cancelled. It would have to wait another year.

Keith Curtis, Polaris Racer

“The factory-built turbo was so powerful and responsive, I had to change how I rode the sled. It really was just instant power.”
— Keith Curtis, Polaris Racer

While the engineering team is hard at work validating final designs the winter before a product launch, the marketing team traverses the snow belt to bring the vehicle to life. Countless photos and videos are shot, advertisements made, websites built, and brochures printed to make sure the launch goes off without a hitch. A key component of this pre-launch work is a sort of ‘Top Secret Road Show’ that the new sleds go on. Athletes, ambassadors, and press need to ride the new sleds before launch, allowing them to help share the news. On the surface, it sounds like a lot of fun: take some awesome people riding on some kick ass new sleds. The reality is conducting hundreds of rides on a new sled without the smartphone toting, Instagram-ing snowmobile community finding out is a lot harder said than done.

 

“We spent nearly 35 days on snow last winter capturing content and getting as many riders as we could on the new sleds before launch. It is quite the undertaking, but with news this big we had to make it happen.” said Sara Lisko, Marketing Director.

 

The first stop on the tour is the photo and video shoot. A team of photographers, videographers, drone operators, creative directors, production support, and mechanics descend on an undisclosed location in the Rocky Mountains. After a few days of prepping sleds and scouting locations, the athletes and ambassadors arrive. They will be the riding talent for the next few days, but when they arrive, they play the role of excited snowmobile rider. With a Christmas morning energy, they watched the covers pulled from the new Matryx Slash RMKs – some with ‘Patriot Boost’ proudly displayed on the side.

A photoshoot session for the MY22 Polaris Snowmobiles Lineup
A photoshoot session for the MY22 Polaris Snowmobiles Lineup

“The new Boost was gnarly to ride right from the get go. The new Matryx Slash platform was the perfect match to all the power - it is just an incredible machine that makes everything so easy.” said Sahen Skinner, Polaris Athlete.

 

The first morning out, Sahen Skinner and Keith Curtis set out on a new Pro and Khaos, respectively, both outfitted with the new Patriot Boost. The natural reaction to riding a new machine is to take it easy, and get a feel for it. Slowly progress throughout the day, building confidence on the new sled. Not these two. They tore down the trail, and immediately headed for the gnarliest terrain they could find.

 

“I had ridden my race sleds with the Patriot Boost, but not the new Matryx Slash platform. It was unreal how well the whole package worked together. It really is a whole new animal.” added Curtis.

 

Photographing and riding with the best riders on earth can lead folks to become a bit numb to the talent level in front of them. Todd Williams and Rob Utendorfer know this better than most, as they’ve been the lead photographers for Polaris Snowmobiles for the better part of 15 years. Randy Sherman, Dan Adams, and Chris Burandt on everything from the 700 Dragon to the first Pro-RMK and the launch of the 850 Patriot, they’ve seen it all. Or so they had thought.

“We got out there for the first day with Skinner and Keith, and it was unreal to watch. Hop-overs on near flat ground, massive re-entries, just insanity right off the trail, all on factory-stock sleds.” said Williams.

 

“We headed for the trees, and they started through some pretty nasty lines. I kept waiting for them to get stuck or turn down, and they kept on moving. The power of the Boost with the new Matryx Slash platform surprised all of us.” added Utendorfer.

 

Following the photoshoot, the road show made a stop to ride with ambassadors and dealers. Both groups echoed the feelings had at photoshoot – this was the real deal. They all had many miles on their AXYS RMKs with the venerable 850 Patriot under the hood, and were blown away with what they rode.

 

This is the most fun I’ve ever had riding a stock snowmobile - and that is saying something.”— Eric Woog, Alpine Motor Sports

 

“It is so powerful and quick, yet so simple and easy to ride. It’s really something.”— Micah Busk, Karl Malone Polaris

“There is so much forgiveness with the new sled and Boost engine. I can move around the sled and stay out of trouble. It feels like cheating - you have all the power and the maneuverability.”
— Mandy Fabel, Polaris Ambassador

Polaris Ambassador, Mandy Fabel standing next to her Snowmobile vehicles

Chris Burandt is no stranger to modified snowmobiles – that’s an understatement. To say he is one of the foremost builders of custom, modified mountain snowmobiles on the planet might be more accurate. Working with the best of the best the aftermarket has to offer, Chris and his team at Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure in Buena Vista, Colorado have built some of the wildest big bore and turbo RMKs the internet has seen, jam packed with custom carbon fiber and titanium, all in the name of lightweight power.

 

In late January 2021, a pair of Matryx Slash snowmobiles showed up at BBA. They were there for Chris and his crew to put through the wringer, shoot some photos and videos, and generally have fun. The only request was to ‘Bring them back in close to one piece’. When he pulled the rope on a production Patriot Boost for the first time, he thought he knew what to expect.

 

“I had a chance to ride an earlier version of the Patriot Boost in an AXYS chassis a couple years ago, and it was really impressive. I had high expectations, and it beat them - it just had so much power” said Burandt. “When the production Matryx Slash versions showed up, I was expecting the same thing, but I was blown away again. The engine was even more refined, and the Slash is so damn good. It didn’t lose a step in any technical terrain, and added a lot of power thats easy to ride.”

 

With the stamp of approval from the legend himself, the momentum was building. The sled was validating extremely well, and every ambassador, athlete, and dealer who had ridden it was nothing short of stoked. As the calendar turned to February, it only continued to grow.

Chris Burandt sitting between two Polaris Snowmobile vehicles
Chris Burandt sitting between two Polaris Snowmobile vehicles

“Turbo sleds used to be a trade off - you either got low end torque or top end power. With Patriot Boost, you get both - straight from the factory.”— Chris Burandt, Polaris Athlete

 

Everyone with a snowmobile and an internet connection participated in the annual “What’s coming from the OEM’s this year” speculation festival. Not surprisingly, a lot of talk centered around an 850 Patriot with a turbo. It wasn’t just if it was coming, but what would it deliver. With all of the social media comments and forum posts, one message came through above the rest: A Polaris turbo had to make real power, and do it flawlessly. Expectations were high.

 

The final stop was the annual Snow Shoot in West Yellowstone, Montana. A chance for the press to ride all of the new sleds from each manufacturer. Not very often in the auto, offroad, or other motorsports segments do the press ride all of the new vehicles back to back, providing a unique opportunity for the snowmobile press. A fleet of Patriot Boost sleds was ready, and the team from Roseau was excited to show off their latest creation. Over a few days, press members eagerly took out the new Polaris sleds, along with a smattering of certain yellow and green sleds to compare. In the end, there really was no comparison.

 

“The turbo system doesn’t dominate the ride. It allows the power of the 850 to do its thing, then kicks in when you grab full throttle and expect full performance. The power never tops out, its incredible”.— Ryan Harris - Publisher, SnoWest

 

“You can’t beat turbo power that is designed hand-in-hand with engine and platform considerations. Pump gas and go is what so many riders want these days, and having consistent, reliable power straight from the factory is amazing.”— Patrick Winslow - Editor-in-Chief, Mountain Sledder

 

“In the mountains, the conditions are always changing. No matter the weather, conditions, or terrain, the Patriot Boost runs strong every single day - and you don’t have to touch a thing.”— SnowTech

 

Following the Snow Shoot, there was only a week left to launch. Everyone on the list had spent some time on the new sled, and the details were wrapping up. Websites were being finished, press releases written, brochures were printed, and the online ‘Build & Quote Tool’ was being completed. In just a few days, customers would be customizing their Patriot Boost RMK to order it through SnowCheck, the Polaris spring order program.

 

On the evening of March 1st, the 2022 snowmobile lineup from Polaris was finally revealed. Patriot Boost was the talk of the town – well, the figurative Facebook town – and riders were thrilled. The reaction was exactly what the team had spent countless hours building towards. What was a bit of a surprise, however, was just how many there were.

Polaris Snowcheck Arrives on March 1st, 2021

“We had pretty high expectations for the Patriot Boost sleds, especially being SnowCheck exclusive, but we didn’t anticipate they would sell out in a day.” - said Scott Kuklock, Sales Director.

When developing new snowmobiles, a consumer target is identified early on. Who is going to buy this sled, and why are they going to buy this over something else are the operative questions. With Patriot Boost, the consumer was clear: extreme mountain riders looking for more power without compromise. The entire program had been built on that answer – and the team was confident they had nailed the product. The only way to truly know, however, is to release the new sled to the public – then wait and see.

 

“Creating an all new sled with ground-breaking technology and ultimately bringing it to market requires an exceptionally talented and highly-committed team. I am incredibly proud of the way the Snow team knocked down the most difficult engineering challenges our company has ever faced and delivered performance exceeding their targets. All those years of focused effort and passion came together to product a sled that far surpasses anything else on the mountain, and that clearly reflects our heart for the Polaris rider. The best part will be to see the smiles on those riders’ faces when they experience Patriot Boost for the first time!” said Chris Wolf, President of Snowmobiles 2015-2021

 

After the frenzy of launch night, the following days consisted of ensuring Patriot Boost and Matryx Slash demo sleds were put to work across the snow belt. From the outside, it seemed to be slowing down a bit. The sleds were selling very well in SnowCheck, demo sleds were out, and all was well. But the Polaris team knew there was one more stop on the Road Show – the 2021 Jackson Hole World Championships.

 

With the 2020 race cancelled, the build-up to the 2021 event was heightened. Racers were eager to get back to the event, focused on their chance to engrave their name on the King of Kings trophy. Fans were excited to head back to Jackson, set up their lawn chair, and watch the best in the business attack the hill. For Team Polaris racers Keith Curtis, Andy Thomas, and Justin Thomas, the anticipation was just a bit higher – they would be riding near stock Patriot Boost powertrains.

 

While the Open Mod class in hillclimb is one of the last remaining true open classes in snowmobile racing, the goal was to demonstrate just how good the stock Patriot Boost is.

Open Mod Class HillClimb Patriot Boost Snowmobile with trophy
Open Mod Class HillClimb Patriot Boost Snowmobile with trophy

“It was a bone stock engine package with a racing muffler and some race gas. We were running at or slightly above stock boost pressures for the elevation, with no other changes. Everything down to the zip ties is what will roll off the production line.” said Hedlund.

 

In a class legendary for its wild builds, the team from Roseau entered an engine package you can order at your dealer. Message sent. The move wasn’t publicized at the time, and fans largely didn’t know what was under the hood, save for a few keen eyes in the pits. All three riders qualified in all their classes, meaning the Patriot Boost would have a few shots at the hill on Sunday.

 

“The best thing about the factory-built mods was the consistency. They ran perfectly every single time we ran them up the hill. You knew that every time you hit the throttle, it would be there. That creates another level of confidence that just makes everything easier.” said Andy Thomas, Polaris Racer.

 

“When the best hillclimb racers in the world come back from a run on a factory built sled and say ‘Don’t change a thing, its perfect’, well there isn’t anything better.” said Reed Hanson, Powertrain Development Specialist.

 

When finals day came, Curtis took the win in 900 Mod, earning him a place in the Mod King finals. When the finals for Open Mod came, Curtis held the fastest time with one rider left – Justin Thomas. With ice in his veins, Thomas laid down a faster time to secure a ticket to the Mod King finals. The Patriot Boost sleds were eligible to enter two classes, and it won them both.

 

There were nearly 15 Polaris staffers in the pits for that Sunday in Jackson. Some of them were there back in the mid 2000s, when conversations around a turbo project began. They were proud of the press and consumer reaction and record sales of the Patriot Boost, sure – but they’re a competitive bunch. They wanted to win at Jackson Hole.

Demonstration of the  Patriot Boost performance on a race
Roseau Team in the pits of the Open Mod class  race
Team Roseau doing check-ups on a Polaris Snowmobile
Keith Curtis and Team Polaris holding the King of  Kings Trophy
Demonstration of the  Patriot Boost performance on a race
Roseau Team in the pits of the Open Mod class  race
Team Roseau doing check-ups on a Polaris Snowmobile
Keith Curtis and Team Polaris holding the King of  Kings Trophy

Five riders took one last run at the course up Snow King Mountain for a chance at the Mod King title, with Keith and Justin going last. Curtis did what he does best – set fast times in the King races – and put a blistering time up on the board. Thomas had one last shot at it, with the course absolutely mangled from 4 days of racing. He left it all on the mountain, and came up just short to Curtis’s time. Keith completed his record-tying 6th King of Kings title, and the Polaris contingent in the pits cheered and high-fived, enjoying a victory years in the making.

 

“Winning the Triple Crown at Jackson with the team from Roseau in the pits, on a sled they built, its what racers dream of. It was an incredible experience to be able to get the job done at Jackson.” said Curtis.

 

For the last 40 years, race fans would hang around the pits of the Jackson Hole checking out the exotic, hand built mod sleds. They would point to one and say “It would be a dream to build one of those someday”. This year, they looked at Keith Curtis’s winning Patriot Boost, and had something different to say: “I bought one of those, and I can’t wait to ride it.”

 

It was an exclamation point on a 15-year journey. A passionate group of snowmobilers set out to build a turbocharged two-stroke like no one else before them, setting a new standard for performance along the way.

 

Mission Accomplished.