Pisteside Future Classics: Bully vs. Bison

With winter settling in, these machines started working a few weeks ago at downhill and cross-country ski areas.  As an avid cross-country skier, I appreciate how they make the sport more enjoyable and faster than it was decades ago.  While snowmobiles have groomed trails and set traditional tracks for many years, the wide and firmly packed trails needed for skate skiing would not be possible without these machines.

Two manufacturers compete in this market: Kässbohrer and Prinoth. Kässbohrer is a German company with a long history, mentioned recently in Johannes Dutch’s Truck Show Outtake 1964 Bűssing, and by Paul in Bus Stop Classic: 1958 Kässbohrer Setra Continental . In addition to the trailers and buses covered, the company makes a line of snow groomers, almost generically known as “Pisten Bullys”.

The Canmore Nordic centre operates several 400 series Pisten Bullys, and recently acquired a Prinoth Bison (first two photos). Prinoth is an Italian company located in Sterzing, South Tyrol, founded in 1951 by Ernesto Prinoth, who competed in a handful of Formula 1 races in the early 1960s. Prinoth produced a variety of snowcat type vehicles, and expanded its range by acquiring Canadian manufacturer Camso (formerly Bombardier).

The depicted Prinoth “Bison” and the Pisten Bully 400 are very closely matched. The Bison has a Caterpillar C9.3 9.3 liter engine producing 406 HP and 1726 Nm torque, while the Bully 400 has a Cummins QSL9 8.9 liter engine producing 405 (1 less!) PS (HP) and 1627 Nm torque. Weight of both vehicles is in the 9800 kg range. Kässbohrer’s website claims over 60% world market share for this type of equipment.

I had the privilege of riding along in the Prinoth Bison. An impressive piece of machinery!