Light is right. That’s the message we at SnoWest Magazine have been preaching for
years for the mountain segment of snowmobiles.
And, for the most part, that’s the mantra of those building
mountain snowmobiles for the steep and deep.
Snowmobile manufacturers have been looking to shave weight
anywhere possible, from the bolts and rivets used to tracks to the metals that
make up a snowmobile. And everything in between.
Of course, we in the West want our snowmobiles to be light
and reliable. Nothing irks us more than to be 15 or so miles in the backcountry
and have something go south on us. It doesn’t matter how light the sled is if
it ain’t going anywhere. That’s why we’re impressed with the efforts the
manufacturers have made in the reliability department, too. Sure, there have
been some issues with first year models but, for the most part, things have
been pretty clean the past couple of years.
It’s interesting that while the common theme in the
mountains is lightweight sleds, each manufacturer works hard to carve out its
own niche, even in its mountain lineup.
Finally, Good News
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the mountain lineup,
it’s worth noting that snowmobile sales through the end of December were up
across the North American snow belt. That’s especially good news in light of
the fact that the trend has been downward for the past several years.
It just goes to show that while new technology and new
models are good news, snow is even better news. Folks will buy snowmobiles when
there’s snow. Crazy, huh? The latest figures we got by press time was that,
because of good early snow across the snowbelt, snowmobile sales were up 10
percent. One snowmobile manufacturer pointed out that its dealer inventories
were down 25 percent by the end of December—and that’s good news, too, because
that means the pipeline of non current sleds is being cleaned out.
That’s all good news because when sleds sell, snowmobile
manufacturers can put more money into R&D and that’s when consumers come
But there’s plenty new for ’09, as the following pages will
Manufacturer By Manufacturer
Arctic Cat returns to the mountains with three engine sizes:
600, 800 and the 1000, the industry’s largest. Track lengths range from 153 to
162 inches. Various M sleds have gone on diets, some losing as much as 20 plus
Polaris has nine mountain models in four engine sizes: Fan,
600, 700 and 800, which includes the all new 800 Assault RMK. Most of the other
RMKs also shed some weight, upwards of 15 lbs. Track lengths vary from 136
inches to 163 inches.
The lightweight theme has really paid off for Ski-Doo, now the
No. 1 seller of mountain machines in the West. The big news in Ski-Doo’s
mountain lineup is the addition of the E-TEC motor to the 600 class as well as
the new 500SS Summit Everest. And you don’t even have to spring order (although
you can) a Summit
to get the new E-TEC engine, it comes in an in-season model as well.
Yamaha has been hard at work as well and western riders will
be interested in the new FX Nytro XTX with a 144-inch track, the newest
crossover (or hybrid or whatever you want to call the combo trail/mountain
segment). Yamaha has been busy in other segments as well, but we aren’t allowed
to talk about them by the time this issue went to press so you’ll have to be
content with reading about the mountain models and other news from the company
on www.snowest.com and next season’s
One trend that is very noticeable for 2009 from some of the
manufacturers is to go longer (track length, that is) in the crossover segment.
We’re going to pay a little more attention to that segment this next winter as
that is certainly an appealing class to some.
We’ve had a chance to ride a handful of the new 2009
models and have given some of our riding impressions but just know we rode
pre-production models and calibration was still being finalized on the motors
and suspensions. That’s why we are looking forward to riding them all again in
early March and the photo shoots. Then we’ll give you the full rundown in next