You can’t beat deep powder—the kind that swallows your sled
as you float through it, swirling around you and absorbing every ounce of the
sled’s power as you press your way up the mountain. The kind of snow that
forces you to stand, if nothing else just to avoid its wake as it crests over
your snowmobile and into your chest.
can’t beat it.
past several winters the SnoWest Deep
Powder Challenge has been more of a horsepower hardpack drag race. But finally,
this year we had snow. Deep snow. Challenging snow. Unbeatable snow. We had a
deep powder challenge.
sleds getting stuck. One after another after another. And then we had a sled
This year we didn’t need to wait
until we got back to the office and analyze the data to pick a winner. The
winner was the sled that went over the hill after the competition dug holes.
Rev XP 800 proved that weight matters. It proved that staying on top of deep
powder will take you up the slope. When the competition started to trench, the
XP 800 started to shine, leaving no doubt what sled reigned that day.
Deep Powder Challenge was held Jan. 15-17 in Island Park, ID.
One storm system after another had been pounding their way through the area,
making roads slick and drifting, forcing school closures and leaving
substantial powder in Idaho’s
Centennial Mountain Range.
snowmobile dealers battled the elements to be in Island Park for this year’s
event—High Mark Recreation of Boise, ID, representing Polaris; The Edge
Motorsports of Draper, UT, representing Ski-Doo; Outlaw Motor Sports of
Enterprise, OR, representing Yamaha; and Mountain Magic Sports of Preston, ID,
representing Arctic Cat. Each dealer
brought two stock sleds for the Deep Powder Challenge, and one mod sled to show
off the kind of work they do at their dealership.
order of business was to get an accurate weight of each snowmobile prior to
hitting the snow.
dealers arrived, we made certain every sled was topped with gas and oil and
then we put them on the scales. After all, most snowmobilers prefer to ride
with gas and oil, so wet weights are important. However, we also calculated
each sled’s weight without gas and oil. (We don’t think you should penalize a
manufacturer for offering a larger gas/oil tank on its sled.)
The Rev XP
was not only lighter, but way lighter—39 pounds under the M8 and 52 pounds under
for kicks, we weighed each of the four brands after our ride (when the
suspension is full of snow and ice). Ski-Doo’s weight increased by 23 pounds;
Polaris was 27 pounds heavier; Yamaha was 44 pounds heavier and the Cats were
50 pounds heavier. What’s interesting here is that Ski-Doo and Polaris have
“punched” tracks while Cat and Yamaha don’t. Apparently, holes in the track
will clean the snow out of the system … by nearly double.
afternoon was cold and windy on the mountain. Just busting the trail back into Mt. Jefferson
took considerable effort. Our route runs through trees and up ridges, requiring
a whole lot of zigzagging and boondocking.
top, we were riding in the cloud with flat light and very little definition in
the snow. It put you in a catch 22 situation—you wanted to move slow so you
wouldn’t drop into any holes are fly off any cornices as you crossed the
various drainages that mark the top end of Hell Roaring
Canyon … but you needed
to maintain a good speed and momentum to plow through the deep snow.
combine the conditions to the fact that we were also packing our camera gear,
computer and other equipment needed to conduct our tests, you see that this
wasn’t just an easy ride up the mountain. And due to the winds, we chose to
stay away from wind-loaded slopes where the risk of avalanche would be greater.
test hill (Test 1) was just north of
Brower’s Springs one ridge east of Mt.
Jefferson. The sleds
staged at 8,900 feet elevation and climbed a 700-foot slope that was mostly
wind-swept and rose 400 feet in elevation.
This was a
good starting point since there was a solid base that allowed all the sleds to
stay on top of the snow. (We’ve already been stuck enough just busting the
trail in … so we didn’t want to add any more excitement to our lives that first
day.) And as expected, horsepower and hookup were the two most prominent
factors in the results.
flew up the course over a half-second faster than the Dragon 800 (or by about
four sled lengths).
Due to the
blowing, the snowing and the sun setting, we cut the first day’s tests short
and retreated back to the warmth of our cabin at Sawtelle Estates.
morning we awoke to blue skies, cold temperatures and a great day for testing.
The first order of business, besides breakfast, was to conduct some speed runs
across the meadow (Test 2).
elevation of 6,400 feet over a 1,500-foot course that was flat and tracked, the
M8 surprised us with the top speed and time of the group, beating the M1000 by
a quarter-second (nearly three sled lengths). The Dragon 800 finished with the
third best time (about seven sled lengths behind the M8) about a sled length
ahead of the Apex (which had the third best top-end speed).
the holeshot went to the Rev XP (146-track) which covered the first 100 feet in
2.83 seconds. The M8 had the third slowest holeshot … but made up for it in the
first 500 feet of the course.
midmorning we had wrapped up our speed runs and loaded up to spend the day back
on Jefferson. With clear visibility and no
wind, we were ready to collect some real data for our tests.
to the first test site just north of Brower’s Springs. We extended the test
hill to 900 feet in hopes to stretch out the sleds. And once again, this course
was suited for horsepower and the M1000 dominated (Test 3).
difference on this test was the two Rev XPs which finished second and third,
dropping the Dragon 800 to fourth and M8 to fifth.
was actually a quarter-second slower coming out of the holeshot for the first
100 feet, but made up the difference in the middle part of the hill. The Rev XP
(154-track) took the holeshot but still finished just under a sled length
behind the M1000 .. but about three sled lengths ahead of the XP (146-track).
speed reached on the course was just over 36 mph.
Looking For Powder
it was time to get right to the heart of the issue—how the sleds performed in
We rode down
Canyon on the south side of Jefferson. We staged at 8,275-feet elevation at the base
of a ridge separating the bottom of the drainage at Hell Roaring Creek to the
slope of Jefferson. The snow was deep and
fluffy with no packed base—this was a true powder run—and the slope was just
over 35 degrees. (There were actually two steep faces on the slope—one at 300
feet and the other at 600 feet.) We tracked up the staging area right were the
slope takes off, literally putting the ski tips in untouched powder. Each run
we would move over a track width to attack the slope in untracked snow (Test 4).
the slope was the M8 … which proceeded to climb 223 feet before settling into a
deep fluffy grave. (In three tries it could only best 324 feet.) Then came the
Dragon 700, which scratched its way through the tough part of the slope around
the 230-foot mark, and slowly regained its momentum through the 600-foot mark
before crawling out the top at around 800 feet in just over 44 seconds.
The next sled
on the slope was the Nytro … which augered in at 160 feet. Then came the Rev XP
(154-track) which raced over the top in 31 seconds, making the run look
relatively easy and catching everyone’s attention. (Proceeding runs showed the
same results with times actually improving by four seconds.)
the M1000. It’s first run netted 237 feet before getting stuck. (Second and
third runs netted 296 and 668 feet, respectively.) By now, an uncomfortable
silence settled on the group. Up until now, all sleds seemed to be competing on
an equal plain. But now the bar had been raised and the competition was coming
sled in this test, the Dragon 800, pulled up to the line … and in less than 15
seconds was buried in at 254 feet. (Three additional runs only netted 346 feet
of climbing distance.)
the Rev XP (146 track), tearing up the 800-foot course in 33 seconds (followed
by 29 seconds in a subsequent run), making Ski-Doo two-for-two in making the
hill look easy. The final run was the Apex … which lasted only 209 feet and 14
no doubt as to the domination of the Rev XP in this particular test hill, even
though the Ski-Doos actually were slower than the Dragon 800 and M8 over the
first 50 feet of the hill.
Up To Speed
So what if
we created a “launch pad” per se for the sleds—a 15-yard run packed at the
slope before hitting the fresh stuff (Test
eight sleds started, four sleds made it to the top, and two sleds made it look
the weight factor just kills the Yamahas in these snow conditions. They were
two of the casualties at just over 300 feet up the hill.
the other two casualties were the M8 and Dragon 8. The M8 trenched out at just
over 600 feet. The Dragon 800 crawled up to 700 feet before it lost its thrust
up the slope and dug in.
was third fastest going over the top, finishing about two seconds behind the
Rev XP (154-track). And the Dragon 700 was the fourth sled to make it over the
top … about five seconds slower than the Ski-Doos.
eight sleds made their pass, it was obvious that the Rev XPs were king of the
fluff. And by now our day was getting long and it was time to head on out.
Besides, it was tech night and we wanted to have plenty of time to examine the
snowmobiles to ensure all maintained their “stock” status … which they did.
day of testing was quite simple. We wanted to see how the sleds handled while
going up a mountain slope with left and right turns, both on and off camber.
Here, to make time, you had to make corners and the clutches had to backshift.
We ran each
snowmobile up the course twice—once with our rider and once with the dealer’s
rider—to ensure the sled was getting fair representation (Test 6).
course we used the ridge coming out of Garner Canyon
just south of Two Top. The course was just under a half-mile long. The snow was
tracked, yet somewhat loose.
proved to be the fastest sled on the hill, running the course in just over 43
seconds. The Rev XP (146-track) turned in the second fastest time at 46
seconds, followed by the Dragon 700 at 46.6 seconds.
sleds handled the best on the course, followed by the Cats. The Revs seemed to
bounce a little off the course, but could maintain speed even when they blew
corners and went in fresh snow. The Yamahas required the most amount of effort
to keep them on the course due to their weight, especially on the off-camber
If you take
away the deep powder, the M1000 seemed to control the competition. But since it
is called the Deep Powder Challenge, we tend to give a little more emphasis to
the sleds that dominate in the deep and steep.
The Rev XPs
ran flawless. We found the 146-inch track was the easier snowmobile to ride and
seemed to be just right on top of the 154-inch track in most tests. (Our riders
preferred riding the 146 because it handled the tight mountain trails a lot
easier than the 154.)
seemed to trench in deep snow, costing them time and momentum in the uphill
tests. Sometimes a track and approach angle can be just too aggressive. As for
the Polaris’, perhaps it was a taste of bad fuel, but the Dragon 800 just didn’t
have the edge like the Dragon 700.
comes to the show knowing that it’s spotting a minimum of 40-100 pounds to the
competition. That may not be a factor when you’re running horizontally … but as
you approach vertical, it’s just too much handicap to overcome.
So it comes
down to just one image, one hypothetical situation: If you find yourself in the
bottom of a canyon in deep powder where the only way out is to turn the sled
upward and grab a handful of throttle … you probably better be on the Rev XP if
you don’t want to spend the night in a snow cave.
When all is said and done, you just
can’t beat deep powder … or can you? The Rev XP may have proved you can.