We have a bone to pick with Bombardier Recreational Products, makers of the Ski-Doo Summits, in particular, with the Summit 800.
Oh, we don't really have any complaints with the sled itself, it's a dandy and one that we've dialed up many a mile on. No, it's with the marketing of the snowmobile. Go ahead and go to the Ski-Doo website and work your way through the site until you get to the Summits section. Click on the video section and watch the Summits. Things are going along fine, you're getting all worked up and anxious to go snowmobiling because the Summits are busting powder, hitting some jumps and doing what a mountain sled should do.
Then, flashing across the bottom of the screen is the dis
claimer, "Professional Riders. Do Not Attempt." Leave it to a lawyer to ruin everything. With all due respect to Ski-Doo (and its lawyers-kind of), if you don't pound the powder with this sled and jump and carve and climb, then you might as well leave the Summit 800 on the trailer. Better yet, leave it in the dealer showroom and buy a toboggan.
The Summit 800-the lone-standing sled in the 800 class these days-deserves to be treated to a meadow of powder and a mountain of snow. That's its entire purpose for being.
Can we say those things without getting into legal trouble? Okay, here's our disclaimer-don't wreck while doing any of these tricks because it's not our fault. You're the one driving. But if you do decide to pony up and buy a Ski-Doo Summit 800, then use the sled to its potential and take it where it's designed to be-off trail in the backcountry.
Let Me Count The Ways
The Ski-Doo 800 made the SnoWest Top 10 Sleds For '06 list for lots of good reasons, the foremost being the Summit 800 is a perfect blend of nearly all the characteristics western riders are looking for in a sled. A blend that includes lightweight, a great powerplant that can carry the load, a good chassis that works with you in the powder, not against you, and a history void of any major mechanical issues.
We hadn't really planned on shining the spotlight just on the Summit 800 in this issue. Originally this story was supposed to be about the 800cc class of mountain sleds. This class has dwindled down to just one-the Summit 800. Polaris went a different direction for '06, dropping the 800 from its lineup while focusing on a couple of new sleds in the 600 and 700 classes. That's a shame because the Polaris 800 RMK was a formidable opponent in this class in years past. The RX-1 is gone, too, but you won't see a lot of weeping and wailing about that.
It wasn't so long ago that the 800 class was the crème de la crème. The flagship of the mountain sled lineup. The sled most every western rider scrambled to get his hands on. At least three of the Big Four were always represented in the class, which was fiercely competitive. Or used to be. Now the Summit 800 owns the class.
The Summit 800 continues to fill a hole that, had the 800s completely gone away, would leave a void in the mountain lineup. We think the jump from a 700 to a 900 just might be too much for some riders. The horsepower (and weight) puts some riders in the realm of needing a lawyer's disclaimer. However, the 800 eases that transition and makes it more plausible. While some might not think of this as a valid reason for keeping the 800 class around, we think it's definitely worth considering.
Besides, we're big fans of the 800 class. With all the hype surrounding the 1000 and 900s, the 800s and even 700s (those are next month's topic) get kind of lost.
The fact that the Summit 800 is the only 800 left standing in this class certainly doesn't (and shouldn't) take away from the truth that this machine can easily hold its own against most other sleds on the snow.
Not convinced? It's pretty tough to explain away the results from the World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb at Jackson, WY, last spring. Ski-Doo cleaned up in the 800 class, winning the top five spots, led by Chuck Hogan. Hogan then came back to win the Stock King of the Hill. A fluke? Hardly. The top five spots in the season points championship were all scooped up by Ski-Doo racers as well.
And what the racers compete on on the mountain is the same thing we consumers get when we purchase one from our local dealer. The fact is that the Rev chassis has proven to be a great western-style platform. The engine is tough. The sled is light. This Summit is available in no less than five different track configurations (from 144-159 inches long, all 16 inches wide and from 2-2.25 inches deep), depending on when you plunked down your 8-10 Gs for it.
The Summit 800 is available in the Adrenaline skin and, if you were lucky enough to preseason one or can still find a spring-only model, the X package. The X package is the sweeter deal (of course) because of all the add ons (not to mention the two-year engine warranty), along with the fact that it lost 20 lbs. compared to the in-season model, which still lost a respectable 15 lbs.
Not All Happy Campers
Not every last western snowmobiler is sold on the Summits-there has been a smattering of complaints over the past couple of years, since the creation and release of the Rev chassis. From what we've heard, most deal with the rider not being able to adjust to the rider forward position. The riders making this complaint say they just can't get used to it and it's uncomfortable. It definitely takes some getting used to but the rider forward angle has been softened on the mountain Rev (compared to the trail Rev) and it's been our experience that once you do get used to it, it's a definite benefit to the rider (which would be why the other three manufacturers have since followed suit in varying degrees). The Rev chassis, with its rider forward position, is one of the reasons this sled does so well in the powder and boondocking. The center of gravity, with the rider so close to the heaviest part of the machine, the engine, keeps the balance of the sled very manageable and that means you don't have to wrestle with the sled to get it to do what you want it to. It's a rather simple concept, actually. The farther you are from the heaviest part of the sled (again, the engine), the harder it is to maneuver the sled. And, usually, the more tired you get.
Let's take that idea of centralized mass a step farther. One of the preferred methods of riding in the West is to stand up. Much of the time, when you're standing while riding, depending on what you're doing like sidehilling, climbing, etc., you're standing forward on the machine as close to the stirrups as possible-helping to centralize the mass and make the sled more maneuverable. Ski-Doo has done part of this work for us with the Rev chassis.
In many ways, the '06 Summit is identical to the '05 model. And in some ways, it isn't. The Summit 800, again depending on which model you're scrutinizing, lost 15-20 lbs., putting the machine at 473-478 lbs., depending on your track and the package (Adrenaline vs. X). That's a big accomplishment for a sled that was already among the lightest in the industry. So is that the biggest news on the Summit 800 or is it that the '06 now has the Rotax 800 H.O. PowerTek engine? That's a tough one. Riding in the West is all about lightweight and power. Maybe it's a draw but regardless, it's a good argument as to which has more influence on the other. Does a lighter machine benefit the powerplant more or does a beefier motor help propel a lighter sled more easily? We could argue long and hard about each thought. They do complement each other.
A few words about the H.O. PowerTek engine, which puts out about 140 horses. Here are some comments on this EPA-compliant powerplant from the SnowTest staff.
"You can tell this engine has been fine-tuned. Likely the best power package available."
"Overall engine performance and throttle response is very strong. Lots of pull."
"Torque with a capital T."
"Good oomph in the midrange. Gets on the pipe quickly. Quick response down low."
Ski-Doo claims the PowerTek is the first carbureted engine to be EPA compliant. To get the most from this engine, Ski-Doo engineers integrated new compression ratios for the PowerTek, which for '06 is 13.25:1. The Tek in PowerTek is an acronym for T) Throttle position sensor, E) Electronic Rave, K) Knock sensor. The T part, among other things, of course, is what helps the 800 H.O. to be EPA compliant. With TPS-based mapping, the Rave valves can be held closed longer for maximum fuel efficiency and torque while reducing emissions.
We Like To Argue
For the purposes of this argument, though, we want to throw in the track to the lightweight/engine mix. One SnoWest SnowTest staffer said, "This sled does crawl up on the snow fairly well." Lightweight plays a part here as does a broad powerband with plenty of low end grunt ("Very strong bottom end. Maybe the strongest part of the motor," said one SnowTester) and the 16-inch wide track. Tracks are as long as your grandmother's woody station wagon these days and longer tracks do offer flotation . but when you're talking about snow, wider is better, even if it is only an inch wider than a conventional track. Spreading out the footprint of the track is what offers more flotation. Longer is better when hillclimbing but not always when you're working the powder in the trees. Ski-Doo had a corner on the wide-track market until Yamaha and Camoplast jumped into the mix in 2006. It's a little hard to believe that it took so long for a wide track to appear on mountain sleds in light of the fact that utility sleds have been using wide tracks for years for one very important reason-flotation.
Ski-Doo went one better for the upcoming season by enlarging the windows in the track (less rubber equals less weight, in this case 2 lbs. less rotating weight), which evacuates more snow out of the suspension. Granted, this past season, due to low snow conditions in many places, we wanted as much snow as possible in the suspension to lubricate the sliders, but during a normal year you're packing a lot of snow (read: weight) in the suspension, which can rob power or, at the very least, drag down the sled's efficiency. And our thinking is that Ski-Doo has shaved weight in as many places as it possibly can on the sled so the next logical place to take some pounds off is the track.
Other places where the Summits lost poundage (depending on model) was the elimination of the third rear heat exchanger (7 lbs. alone), drilling the jackshaft, new skis and new RT mountain seat. There were mixed feelings from the SnowTest crew on the new seat. Some felt it is a little too wide and a little soft compared to competitors models but overall everyone felt is was better than previous Ski-Doo seats.
If you were able to ride both the Adrenaline and X Package models you might be able to tell the difference in the ride-the X rides better than the Adrenaline because of the higher end shocks, HPG T/A. While such comments as "The suspension package works very well in all conditions," were common among the SnowTest staff, one SnowTester's comment, "I prefer the better shocks," was also common. Generally, Ski-Doo has made some definite improvements in its suspension (design and setup) over the past two or three years and the ride to the mountain is a lot more tolerable these days.
Oh Yea, The Skis
This story probably wouldn't be complete without some verbiage on the skis. In the first couple of issues, we complained loudly about the new Pilot 6.9 skis and how they were, well, here's how one SnowTester put it, "Terrible-very darty and herky jerky." We have since ridden the latest version of the 6.9s and they are improved but we need to ride them in better conditions than we experienced in May and June when we rode them. So until then, we'll give Ski-Doo the benefit of the doubt while the jury remains out. And we'll keep an open account with certain aftermarket companies.
Really, the only complaint we have with the Summit 800 is the skis. Oh yea, and the "Do Not Attempt" disclaimer.
We plan on taking our Summit 8 through the powder ringer this winter and get every ounce of performance out of it possible. That's because we know this 800 is up to it. We might even take a lawyer or two along just to help dig us out.