They're trail sleds and they're mountain sleds. Are they built for the windy trails in Michigan or the deep powder snow of Utah? What about the flats of the Dakotas?
Well, if you're the kind of rider who likes to ride in all those conditions, this is the snowmobile segment for you: the hybrids, crossovers, 2-in-1s or whatever else you'd prefer to call them.
The crossover market has continued to become one of the largest segments in the snowmobiling industry and for good reason. With the capability of pounding bumps on the trail and floating your way through the soft western snow, the versatility of a crossover makes them very appealing to many in the snowmobile market. It's hard to look back and say which sled kind of "broke ground" in this segment, but it's safe to say this season each manufacturer has a dog in the hunt.
We don't have specific sales numbers, but from what we can informally gather, many Midwestern riders purchase a crossover so they can ride at home and in the West and use the same sled without having to have two different models. Crossovers are a small portion of snowmobile sales in the West, itself, but some dealers seem to do well in that segment.
Here's a brief look at what each of the Big Four have to offer in the crossover segment.
Polaris has always had a very competitive model in this class, dating back to the early SKS and then Switchback models. With their trail-built suspensions and longer tracks, Polaris crossover models have always been a popular model for buyers in this "2-in-1" market.
For 2009, Polaris has merged its LX and Switchback lineups, taking the versatile deep powder characteristics from the Switchback and backing them with the solid trail features from the LX, improving on an already impressive crossover chassis design.
This year's Switchbacks come in a variety of models, with the 800cc CFI, 600cc CFI-4, 600cc CFI-2 and 750cc FST Turbo as engine choices, meaning you're bound to find one that will fit your preference. Polaris is also offering the Switchback as a Dragon model, which offers sportier looks, RydeFX Air 2.0 shocks, and a taller 5.25-inch handlebar riser.
The 136-inch coupled rear suspension offers great on-trail comfort while providing outstanding off-trail performance. The standard 1.25-inch Ripsaw track works well on the trail, whether it be a nice, freshly-groomed surface or loose powder conditions. Standard model Switchbacks come with Ryde FX HPG shocks up front while Fox PS5 shocks handle the bumps out back. The up classed Dragon models come equipped with more advanced Ryde FX 2.0 Air shocks to soak up the bumps up front and a Ryde FX remote adjustable shock is used on the rear skid, offering the ultimate in adjustability.
This year's Switchback models also come standard with the lightweight RMK style seat and a narrower 11.5-gallon fuel tank, offering the best in rider comfort, whether sitting or standing. The Switchback also comes standard with electric start for added convenience. Polaris will also be offering the Swtichback as a Shift model, for the value-based buyer, offering a great crossover model machine without a hefty price tag.
Brand new to the crossover/hybrid segment is the FX Nytro XTX from Yamaha. The Nytro made a big splash this past season and has already begun to prove itself as a very competitive and likeable 4-stroke among western riders. It goes much deeper than that though, as the new 130-horsepower, three-cylinder Yamaha powerplant has also become a welcome sight to the trail riders of the Midwest and the Upper Peninsula. Snappy throttle response and solid top-end power from the Genesis 130 offer great trail riding characteristics while supplying more than enough grunt to send the XTX through deep powder without a hindrance of trouble.
Out back the FX Nytro XTX is sitting on a very innovative rear skid, with tipped-up style rails. The XTX corners like a 121-incher, can handle bumps with the stability of a 136-inch and float through powder with the authority of a 144-inch sled. By designing the rails to tip upwards at the standard 121-inch axle location, the actual footprint on the trail is no more than your standard trail model machine, offering superb trail handling. Take tight corners and sweeping curves with confidence, knowing the 1.25-inch Ripsaw track is there to plant power whenever needed. While most crossover riders demand a nice platform for trail riding, they still want their sleds to be capable in fresh powder snow. Yamaha nailed it with this sled. Rear suspension design has been engineered for just that: on-trail performance and off-trail floatation. The FX Nytro XTX is a 144-inch long track sled that handles the trails with the authority of a 121.
Yamaha also took lessons learned on the snocross tracks to develop a new tunnel design and front suspension geometry not rivaled by many machines. Narrow, tapered design and punched out running boards offer excellent footing to even the most aggressive riders, whether you prefer pounding the trails as fast and as hard as possible or spending hours carving through powder fields, the new tunnel design will impress you.
New front suspension geometry offers flatter cornering, making for a more confidence-inspiring feel. The XTX could quickly become a favorite among all crossover segment riders.
Yamaha has long been known for its on-trail comfort and the FX Nytro XTX continues that legacy with GYTR dual-clicker shocks. With adjustability for both rebound and damping, the suspension under the XTX can be dialed in for just about any rider preference and riding style. Prefer to ride rough trails? Not a problem. How about tight, windy trails, where weight transfer is key? That won't be a problem either. Being the first year on the market, there might be some concerns about the XTX's ability in the crossover lineup, but once you've been on one, you'll soon find out, it's definitely a contender for top spot in this segment.
Returning again for another year from Arctic Cat in the crossover segment is the ever-popular Crossfire. Based off the proven M Series chassis, the Crossfire continues to be a leading force in this segment. With its agility in the backcountry, it comes into the 2009 season with even more to offer the on/off-trail rider. Offered again with the 500, 600, 800 and 1000cc engines, Cat has covered all the horsepower bases, making sure you can find a Crossfire suitable for each specific rider.
This year the Crossfire comes standard with a new 141-inch track, replacing the 136-inch models from past seasons, adding even better off-trail functionality. The 1.25-inch Cobra track is offered on the standard Crossfire models, while the taller, 1.5-inch Cobra will be standard on the Sno Pro models. The new 141-inch Cobra track offers a very aggressive bite on trail while offering decent deep snow capability as well when you decide to dive off the trail.
Suspension-wise the rear skid on Sno Pro models has been upgraded to the Float skid found on the Crossfire's close relative, the M Series. The swap to the Float skid with its Fox Float air shocks offers a better ride both on the rough trails and the powder slopes. Sno Pro Crossfires will also come standard with the new telescoping handlebar system, allowing for complete handlebar adjustability, something that every crossover rider will appreciate.
New this year to the Crossfire lineup is the Crossfire R, a purebred lake racer. Offered only in the stout 800cc and very potent 1000cc twin laydown style engines, the new Crossfire was built for one thing and one thing only-speed. In the standard Crossfire chassis the R model is offered with a much shorter 128x14 x1-inch track, making for the ultimate in top speed and acceleration. If speed is your friend and second place on the lake is never an option, this might be the model for you this season.
Offered in the XP chassis, the '09 Renegade will continue to be a very popular model in the crossover segment. Offered with the 600 H.O. E-Tec, 800R or all-new 1200 4-Tec Rotax motors, deciding which one to get just might be the most challenging thing you do this season. Ski-Doo has done its homework and brought some very competitive machines to the segment for the upcoming season.
The XP chassis has quickly become a favorite among all snowmobile riders, regardless of whether they ride the deep, western snows or the trails of the Midwest and East, further cementing the fact that as a Crossover model the Renegade could be a great choice for the hybrid market riders as well. It should be noted that the 1200 4-Tec Renegade is offered in the XP chassis' bigger-bodied brother, the XR chassis, which has been widened and lengthened some to accommodate the larger 4-stroke powerplant.
The Ski-Doo Renegade will come standard with a very versatile 137-inch long Ripsaw track. However, different from the other manufacturers in this segment, the Renegade is equipped with a 16-inch wide track, offering added flotation in the deep stuff. Standard Renegade models will come equipped with Kayaba HPG shocks both front and rear, while the X models will come with the more aggressive and rider-adjustable Kayaba clicker shocks.
The all-new 1200 4-Tec motor being offered as a Renegade model should appeal to a large market as being a pretty potent engine with enough power to please even the toughest horsepower junkies, while still offering them great fuel economy.
Buyers will also have their choice of standard or X model sleds with the main differences being cosmetic upgrades and more aggressive suspension calibrations on the X package equipped machines. The X package also offers a little less weight than the standard model Renegade.
If you enjoy Saturday afternoon pounding the ungroomed trails of the U.P, a race across the lake or a day busting trail and knee-deep powder, the crossover market has plenty to offer. Question is, which one do you buy?