1976 Ski-Doo Alpine

December 23, 2007

This morning I decided it was time to start up the old Ski-Doo Alpine and back it out of the barn. The problem which has reduced its usage these last few years has been a series of weak priming pumps which wouldn’t work when dried out. I solved the problem today with the oil-extracting gizmo my friend Tony bought last summer at Princess Auto. When pumped, the large plastic cylinder creates a powerful vacuum which can be used for a variety of things more interesting than draining the oil from a marine engine.

A month ago it extracted standing water from two copper pipes I needed to solder in a wall cavity. This time I hooked it to the carburetor side of the primer on the Alpine and started to pump. The dry lines resisted for a while, but then fuel started to shoot around the transparent tubing and the day was won. Of course the Alpine started right up once primed. I backed it out into the snow-covered barnyard without incident.

Then I tried to shift into forward. No such luck. Neutral was as far forward as the gearshift would go. Not wanting to do all of my season’s snowmobiling in reverse, I took the hood off and had a look. It turned out to be a linkage problem left over from the time I broke the shifter (and two ribs) on an adventure on Scott Island and had had Larry Sargent weld it on the way home. After a bit of creative bending it reassembled with the proper clearances to shift well.

The next hour went into carburetor adjustments. This involved many loops around the barnyard and adjoining field. Eventually the engine ran strongly, so I headed back to the woods to investigate Mom’s report of trespassers on snow machines the night before last. Turns out the only tracks I could find were from the resident coyote and a few squirrels, but if another snow-mobiler should decide to follow my tracks, he’ll soon regret it. Last winter’s loggers left me with a trail through the southern quadrant with bends I can barely navigate with a golf cart. On a twin-track vintage snowmobile they are plain impossible. Several times I had to back and fill in the deep snow in order to make my way through. In one section I gave up and bashed through the undergrowth. It takes a sturdy 3″ tree to deflect an Alpine and substantially more than that to stop it. I wouldn’t care to follow that track on a conventional machine with twin skis.

Carefully avoiding last year’s cherry and oak seedlings, I ricocheted my way through the new trails and gratefully rejoined the track in the more open section of the property.

Man, is driving that machine hard work! The pull cord on a 640 Rotax engine is a challenge when cold, a near-impossibility when warm. Even turning the front ski requires about all I can manage. Enjoying legroom on the long seat is out of the question: if I don’t perch right on top of the engine the thing won’t turn at all. The first launch off a snow drift each year once again reminds me that legs have an important job in protecting the rest of the body from spine-crunching impacts on an old machine sprung for heavy loads.

It didn’t take long to burn a quarter-tank of gas, but by then I was soaking wet from sweat and ready for a nap. What a workout! The Alpine’s all set for another year of trail maintenance around the farm. I’m not so sure my body is ready for the machine, though.

(Note: For some reason this is one of the more popular articles on this site, so I added a second part to it yesterday. You’ll find it under the category “Offroading” in the directory. Rod)

(5 January, 2009:  The Alpine figures prominently in The Heroic Winter Assault on Schooner Island, also in this blog.)

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2 Responses to “1976 Ski-Doo Alpine”

  1. kent scheer Says:

    Rod,

    A 1967 Ski-doo Alpine is my first snowmobile in my life…bought just last Spring and stored inside over summer. Now I’m about to try starting it for my first time. Do you have any advice. The seller just said squirt a little mixed gas in the carburetor and pull hard.
    I’ll be using it to groom trails.

    • rodcros Says:

      One important piece of advice: make sure it is not it reverse when you start it. The last thing you want is to be pinned against the throttle by a wildly-accelerating Alpine in reverse.

      On my machine someone had removed the choke in favour of a primer. A couple of pumps of the primer, and away it went (if the primer hadn’t dried up).

      Make sure you have lots of space to start off and to turn. Avoid vehicles, buildings, shrubs, and slowly-moving relatives. The Alpine will bounce off mature trees, but until you learn how to steer it, you’ll be murder on hedges.

      Rod


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