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Alumni Engagement

Happy trails: Mechanical Engineering Tech. grad makes it big in snow-biz

February 12, 2019

Most people don’t relish taking work home on weekends. For Andy Beavis, it’s a fun part of the job.

As an engineer and Mountain team leader at Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, Minn., the 1998 Mechanical Engineering Technology grad is encouraged to take new snowmobile models and prototypes for a spin whenever he can.

“We’re a relatively small group of people, but we build pretty exotic toys from the ground up. The exciting part of it is we design the parts, we test the parts, we build the vehicles and we have access to the final product — which is a pretty exciting product.”

One prototype Beavis has been trying out since 2011 just arrived on the market, and it’s making headlines and earning rave reviews for its revolutionary single-beam rear suspension system — an industry first that also happens to be his brainchild.

Cover of American Snowmobiler magazine, December 2018 issueThe M8000 Alpha One system was featured on the December 2018 cover of American Snowmobiler magazine, which called it, “one of the greatest turning points in the history of snowmobiling.”

But while his name is on the patent, Beavis says the glory isn’t his alone.

“It’s satisfying on the one hand because it was my concept and my idea,” he says. “But on the other hand, I’ve got a whole team of people that work for me or work with me on that stuff, so I get a lot of the credit sometimes when the final product is really the result of a team.”

An inventor or co-inventor on several patented components, Beavis has designed chassis, drive tracks and steering assemblies — basically everything but engines — since he joined Arctic Cat as a design engineer in December 1998. 

The 43-year-old father of two has been into snowmobiles since he was a kid growing up in Thompson, and he started planning his career as early as Grade 10 after meeting crews from Arctic Cat and other companies that took advantage of Thompson’s long riding season to test equipment on area trails.

“We had a cabin at a lake on an island, so we used snowmobiles and/or winter roads to access that,” he says. “We built it as a family and spent as much time there as we could, which meant early in the ice season to late spring when the ice was going out, and of course that’s when the test crews … would be up there.

Beavis says the Arctic Cat team was the friendliest group and seemed to have the best time on the job. One weekend, he had a chat with the head of engineering, who encouraged him to apply for a job once he completed his education.

He started out at the University of Manitoba, but after two years, he decided to move over to RRC to focus more on applied learning.

“When I ended up at Red River I loved it — it was perfect. The professors were all awesome; they had industry experience. Class sizes were small in Mechanical Engineering Tech., and there was a lot more hands-on stuff that was more useful when I actually started working,” he says.

During his time at RRC, Beavis and his younger brother, JR, were active in the Arctic Cat cross-country racing program, but when he moved to Thief River Falls, his first few projects involved high-performance Mountain snowmobiles, and it was love at first ride.

“I was pretty excited about it because we had been out to B.C. downhill skiing on spring break for years … and when I went out there the first time on a Mountain snowmobile project, I kind of changed my direction again and that’s all I wanted to do,” he says.

“It combined everything I was passionate about, with deep snow and back-country and downhill skiing and snowmobiling rolled all into one.”

When Arctic Cat restructured in 2000, splitting its central engineering group into distinct areas, Beavis became part of the dedicated Mountain team, which he now manages.

Occasionally, he heads back to Thompson to test products, and when he’s not working, he spends quality time with his wife Leanne, their baby son and his 12-year-old daughter. In summer, that often means heading back to Manitoba for a weekend at the lake.

In winter? It’s playtime, with Beavis’ collection of vintage snowmobiles, family-friendly models, modified high-performance sleds and the occasional prototype. Luckily, Leanne — an engineer who loves snowmobiling as much as he does — doesn’t mind when he brings his work home.

“It’s always more exciting to be riding the new development stuff before it’s available to the public,” he says. “There’s always something interesting going on that we get to be a part of.”

Profile by Pat St. Germain (Creative Communications, 1989)