The fanners, as they are affectionately known in the snowmobiling circle, are forced-air cooled machines that are the consumer's alternative to the higher powered, higher priced and more complex liquid-cooled machines. The fan motored sled's forte is not raw horsepower. Instead, it's moderate horsepower combined with light weight and nimble handling.
We could refer to the Fan Class as the "In-Between" class-good for the snowmobiler who is too big for the 120 class, but too small or not strong enough for the entry liquid. It could also be the "Good Enough For Me" class for the rider who isn't a power monger and is content with "fanning" the snow, not pounding it.
There are three great contenders in this class: the Arctic Cat Mtn. Cat 570 1M, Polaris Trail RMK 550 and the Ski-Doo Summit Fan 550.
Fans Of Technology
Innovation sells, so that is always an important consideration for the SnoWest staff. With the fan class being at the bottom of the food chain, new and improved doesn't happen on a regular basis.
This year both the Arctic Cat Mtn. Cat and Ski-Doo Summit are mildly warmed over versions of `03 models. On the other hand, the Polaris Trail RMK has gone from the Gen II chassis to the Edge chassis.
With all of the platform features and innovations, this switch makes the Trail RMK the most new and improved from the ground up in this class.
Not only does the Trail RMK get the new chassis and everything that goes with it, the 550 power plant has several improvements with the end result being two more ponies at peak and a wider powerband, mostly at midrange. But even with its motor improvements, the Liberty-powered Polaris is still playing second fiddle to the more powerful 570 Suzuki in the Cat, with the 550 Rotax-powered Doo a close third. With 70 hp being the most in its class, these Fanners are fairly docile.
As hard as it is to find positives in lower horsepower, there are a couple that are above and beyond the needs of the rider. One is lower rpms, which reduce the wear and tear on motor and drive train components, increasing longevity and durability. The most noticeable positive is increased fuel economy. A pair of 34 mm carbs feed all the fanners, where two 38 mm carbs are the smallest you'll find on a liquid. These fan-cooled mountain sleds make the liquid-cooled mountain sleds seem thirsty. Maybe that's why they call them liquids.
Something that goes hand-in-hand with the power available is traction. After testing, the SnoWest crew concluded that the Ski-Doo Summit, with its 15x136x1.5-inch track had its plate full; the Polaris RMK, with its 15x136x1.25-inch track, could go to a 1.5 deep lug; and the Arctic Cat 1M, with its 15x136x1.4-inch track, got around easy enough that a couple of staffers were wondering about a 141 option.
The mountain fans are built for the more conservative and/or not so buff and/or smaller enthusiast.
The Ski-Doo fanner is right at 40 lbs. lighter than the next lightest Summit available. The Cat and Polaris are both right at a 25-pound advantage compared to the next lightest 1Ms and RMKs.
The light weight, coupled with moderate power, produces a nimble and extremely manageable combination, with the little Summit excelling in this discipline.
Smaller Means Less
For the general consumer, the smaller and lighter package of these fanners really doesn't justify the high-dollar, top-of-the-line gas shock absorbers found on the bigger snowmobiles.
With this in mind, if you ride these little guys the way they were designed to be ridden, the suspensions do perform well. But if you get aggressive and "race" these fanners through the bumps, the ride gets a bit harsh and can also bottom out. What is nice is if you're a racer boy or girl and want that competitive edge, these suspensions will accommodate the better shocks.
The Mtn. Cat had the best overall ride performance with its A.W.S. V front end delivering eight inches of travel and its FasTrack long travel rear with 13.5 inches of travel.
Fans Of Value
Kudos to the manufacturers for offering complete packages at a lower dollar figure in this class.
For in the neighborhood of $2,000 less than the entry liquids, you still get a lot of the amenities that come on the liquids. All three contenders have at least acceptable traction on the running boards and a mountain bar for boondocking as standard fare. All three contenders have adjustable ski stance as a standard feature along with mountain specific skis. All three have low-oil warning lights and adjustable hand and thumb warmers standard.
The Arctic Cat has a tachometer and trip odometer as standard equipment, whereas the Polaris and Ski-Doo offer their electronic reverse. If you don't need high horsepower, these fanners do deliver bang for the buck.