It's a harsh reality check. The cost of nearly every aspect of life continues to rise and you find yourself digging for lost coins under the couch cushions to supplement your "winter recreation fund."
Enter the mountain sportsters, the Polaris Trail RMK and Ski-Doo Summit Fan. This pocketbook-friendly duo is positioned within the snowmobile industry like the sub-compacts are in the auto industry-that would be affordable spelled with a capital A.
The big "A" word starts with your initial investment. The matter we have stressed before is how much "dinero" are you willing or able to drop into your wants and needs. The Polaris wears a price tag of $5,699, the same price as last year, and the Ski-Doo starts at $6,049, up from last year's model by $150. A pricing reference point for comparison would be the other 500 Mountain Sport available for 2007-the Yamaha Phazer Mtn. Lite. The brand new Yamaha is a liquid cooled 4-stroke, boasting 80 hp to motivate the projected 514 lbs. for an MSRP of $7,199. That's a significant difference of $1,150 and as close as it gets with all the 600s retailing for more than $8,000.
Keep it simple. The inexpensive fan-cooled 550cc engines in the Trail RMK and Summit Fan are back to basics powerplants and the main facet to the affordability of this pair. And just because the Polaris and Rotax "fanners" are old school technology, don't think that they don't deliver. It's fairly easy for the SnoWest test crew to tap out the 60-65 horsepower available and these little hummers have never laid down on us.
In order to get the most out of the modestly-powered and budget-minded 550s, both machines are built with lighter weight, yet sufficiently durable drive trains to deliver the most track speed that you can muster out of 60 plus horsepower. The Trail RMK has the venerable P-85 Polaris primary clutch working in unison with the lightweight Team secondary clutch, driving the new 15x136x1.25 Shockwave paddle track.
The Summit Fan drive train consists of the Bombardier Lite drive clutch and the new LPV 27 driven clutch, powering up the also new to the Summit Fan 16x136x1.75 paddle track.
The new Shockwave track improved the traction for the Polaris, whereas the new paddler under the Ski-Doo increased the flotation and traction, noticeably enhancing the powder prowess of this little fanner.
Another definite advantage to the Summit Fan in the powder is the fact that it's around 16 lbs. lighter (dry weight) than the Trail RMK.
If It Ain't Broke...
Don't mess with it. There are a few subtle refinements along with the new paddle tracks and graphics for the 2007 Trail RMK and Summit Fan, but overall construction remains the same.
The Trail RMK continues to be built from the more conventional Edge chassis with the Escape trailing arm front suspension and Dual Purpose Rail rear suspension. Cushion is provided by Nitrex gas shocks in the front and Nitrex/Nitrex Select gas shocks in the back.
Model year 2007 will be the third year for the Rev-based Summit Fan and its aggressive rider forward positioning. The Doo is constructed with the RAS A-arm front suspension including Motion Control gas shocks and the SC-136 rear suspension, also with the Motion Control gas shock absorbers.
Even though the Summit Fan provides 1.5 inches more front suspension travel over the Trail RMK, the Polaris just feels more adapted to trail conditions (read packed snow with bumps and moguls).
No Cheap Goods
The 2007 Trail RMK and Summit Fan are inexpensive, affordable toys, not cheap toys. If they were cheap, they wouldn't be loaded with all the sophisticated creature comforts and amenities that are standard equipment.
Both the Polaris and Ski-Doo are outfitted with the Electronic Reverse (a big selling point by itself), handlebars with a mountain bar, adjustable hand and thumb warmers, mountain specific skis (Polaris has the new I.Q. skis), rear mountain rack, running boards with boot traction and speedometer/odometer. The Summit Fan also has an adjustable ski stance. One thing we would like to see
complementing both machines would be handlebar hooks. Many new to the sport might not find handlebar hooks a necessary creature comfort, but for those of us who like to hang off the machine, whether sidehilling or aggressively riding the corners, hooks are where it's at.
A Tip Of The Hat
The SnoWest test staff criteria has the 2007 Ski-Doo Summit Fan scoring lower (lower is good, M'kay) than the Polaris Trail RMK, which really shouldn't be a surprise with the positive boondocking characteristics of the Doo that play right into our preferences.
The SnoWest crew boldly applauds Polaris and Ski-Doo for continuing to market these "grass roots" entry level snowmobiles. The obvious trend is big, liquid cooled power, but snowmobiles like the Trail RMK and Summit Fan really are the foundation of the industry. They are responsible for sparking the passion to ride for newbies to the sport and to building brand loyalty at any age.