ECHO LAKE – With a foot of snow on the ground and freezing temperatures in the air, the sound of a dirt bike’s whining motor as it sprinted across the field felt a tad incongruous.
But as snow kicked up behind the Yeti SnowMX track on the rear end of the bike, Todd Trent powered through the unmarked field like it was a dirt track in the summertime.
“Anywhere you can get on a snowmobile, you get there and more places on a snow bike,” Trent said as the sun broke through the clouds for the first time in days.
As the owner of Old Faithful Motorsports, now based out of a shop near Bigfork, Trent isn’t prone to gushing about much, let alone machinery. He’s quiet and efficient with his words, but his eyes and face light up when he’s talking about the Yetis.
“There’s a lot of pretty cool engineering that goes into one of these,” he said as he parked the bike near the shop.
Converting a motorcycle to run in the snow isn’t a new idea; companies such as Timbersled have been keeping bikers outdoors all four seasons for years. But Trent, who moved his Old Faithful operations to the Flathead from West Yellowstone and Bozeman, said these Yeti kits are the cutting edge.
Built in Canada, the Yeti conversion kits weren’t available in the U.S. until recently. Trent and his crew only started working with them last year, and they’ve flown off the shelves.
“I was going to rent these,” Trent said inside the workshop, surveying a couple of completed kits, “but they (sell) so fast.”
Trent said Old Faithful Motorsports was the first U.S. distributor to carry the Yeti SnowMX kits, selling 50 in the last year to adventurers across the country. There’s a conversion kit for any type of bike, with a belt drive system where the rear tire would normally go and skis where the front wheel would go. The kits run from $7,500 to $10,000 without pricing for a bike included.
Old Faithful’s location near the Echo Lake Café is ideal for exploring all sorts of terrain on the bikes, which Trent said are more agile in the snow than a typical snowmobile because they weigh much less. The Yeti kits are especially light, made from carbon fiber and titanium, so they clock in at about 40 pounds lighter than the metal kits.
That makes a difference, especially if the rider likes to make tracks up hills, Trent said. Snow bikes are also versatile, allowing the rider more freedom than a snowmobile, he said. For example, a snowmobile typically travels in the lowest part of a given area, but a bike can rip up through the trees on a hillside, he said.
The Trents have been in the business of snow travel for more than a decade. In 1999, Todd and his wife Shirley operated a snowmobile rental shop in West Yellowstone near Yellowstone National Park. But when the park closed its winter borders to individual rentals in 2002, the Trents shifted their business.
Old Faithful Motorsports, named for Yellowstone’s star geyser, moved to a ranch outside Bozeman with two snowmobiles. It grew quickly, Trent said, to the current 100-unit stable.
But by 2006, the Trents were trying to move to the Flathead, where Trent’s grandparents had property since the 1960s and where they knew their two sons would receive a good education in a school with smaller class sizes. Their kids would eventually graduate from Bigfork High School, and Trent went into the concrete countertop business as well after the move.
Soon, though, the rentals in Bozeman were getting so much business that he didn’t have time for the countertops. Then, two winters ago, Trent rode on a Yeti-converted bike and knew it would be big. They decided to jump into the snow bike market.
“The Yeti stuff we just started this year,” he said.
So far, business has been booming, so much that they haven’t been able to keep bikes around for rentals. But Trent hopes to have four converted snow bikes available to rent in coming weeks, likely priced at $250 to $300 for a day.
Trent expects to start seeing more Yeti kits in snow bike races and out in the mountains as they gain popularity. As for the rentals, he anticipates they’ll be popular.
“Yeah, they’re pretty fun,” Trent said.
For more information on Old Faithful Motorsports, visit www.oldfaithfulmotorsports.com or call 406-253-2702.