Yellowknifer can confirm we have no plans to purchase one of the new $150,000 Sherp all-terrrain vehicles that was seen at Yellowknife River on Wednesday.
Though one could likely get our reporters to and from remote locations for breaking news very conveniently – through bush, over rocky terrain, across ice and in and out of water – so far mining, construction, road workers and emergency first responders are the only organizations to have taken an real interest in the machines.
Yellowknifer took the vehicle out for a test ride from the boat launch at the Yellowknife River along with Blaine Abel, operations manager of Sherp Alberta, Sam Olson, general manager of Polar Tech, and Jesse Geortzen, shop manager of Polar Tech.
The tires inflate with added air before setting out into the water. It climbs embankments, cuts through brush, circles and crashes back into the water.
“Everybody ready?!” Abel calls out to Olson and Geortzen as they laugh in the back and he sends the vehicle down the embankment nose first into the water.
“Everywhere you go, it is never a dull moment. We took them to Alaska and made them cross six rivers and right to a glacier and that area was only ever helicopter-accessible.”
Right now there have been no sales in the NWT, but Don Morin, former NWT premier and former operator of Aurora Village, has been integral in introducing the vehicle to the North since he and his wife began operating Sherp North last year. The northern company is working in partnership with Polar Tech to push sales and he said he has been impressed, so far.
“We got them and started testing them last spring when we dropped them through the ice and climbed them out of the ice,” Morin said.
“For me it is the greatest vehicle in the North,” he said. “It is great, it is safe and it is basically a paddle-wheel boat.”
Morin said the vehicle is ideal for the North in every way. It is a four-cylinder vehicle that runs on Kubota diesel and burns very little fuel. The fuel is kept in the hubcaps of the tires and sent to the fuel tank with the push of a button, meaning there is no need for jerry cans.
“What I’m most impressed about is that its footprint is less than an argo on the land,” he said. “You can go anywhere and can go safely and it is nice and warm to travel in. You can go across the ice and from here to Lutsel K’e no problem in a T-shirt.”
The Sherp has been getting plenty of attention this year. The vehicle made an appearance on an Aug. 28 episode of Jay Leno’s Garage featuring Kevin Hart.
Closer to home, Abel said the vehicle has been used in northern Alberta to access remote areas – including those for industry – and about 10 were helpful in the High Level wildfires this spring.
“In Fort Mackay and Fort McMurray, they have been used them for bear and moose counts and things like that,” said Abel.
“With the oil companies that we are working with in the Fort McMurray area the benefit of a vehicle like this is that it is such a soft foot print compared to a track machine because of the soft tires.”
Getting fire departments comfortable with them for fire service, helping personnel reach to and from site and servicing people in distress are among its other benefits.
“In High Level, it was probably the machine with the quickest response and the ability to get the guys out to their equipment,” Abel said. “Whether it be the guys out there running the D6s (a type of bulldozer) and building the berms up, we got a lot of good feedback with forest industry and that it was a great product working for them.”
The vehicle is still fairly new since it hit the market in 2008, shortly after the first prototype was developed in St. Petersburg, Russia, said Abel. Since then, it has been tried in many harsh conditions throughout the world including in Siberia and Africa.
The interior of the vehicle could be promising for various purposes, including responding to people in distress, such as those caught on the ice or in remote locations.
They are equipped with LED strip lighting, Webasto heaters, backup cameras, horns, lights, LED strip lighting and a number of functions that are common in vehicles like fire trucks. The back is also insulated so one can sleep in them.