You kind of had to wonder if Ski-Doo was ever going to come up for air.
After introducing the Summit in the Rev chassis (2004), the Summit was then dressed in the Rev XP chassis (2008), which came with a double-digit weight loss. There was also the new Power TEK engine and SC 5M rear suspension in 2008, followed by the very impressive 600 E-Tec engine in select Summit models for 2009.
In 2011 the mountain bar was raised when Ski-Doo put the equally impressive 800 E-Tec engine in the Summit. That same model year we got the Summit Freeride, Pilot DS Skis, non-ported track and new S-36 handling package.
Ski-Doo has been pushing the envelope for years, leaving us wondering when the company was going to take a breather, even for one season.
Well, that breather comes in 2012. Sort of.
Although Ski-Doo didn't roll out any new platforms or new engines or any major changes for its 2012 mountain lineup, they weren't sitting on their hands, either. There's enough new on the Summit and Freeride sleds to let everyone know they're still in the game when it comes to western riding. While Ski-Doo lost top billing as the No. 1 sled in the West-Polaris took that spot in 2011-you knew that would goad the company on to regain the lost spot.
"Our focus is on the West and the mountain market," Bob Lumley, vice president of sales and marketing for Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo, told us in January.
That focus for 2012 includes expanding some key components to more of the lineup, redesigning the PowderMax track and mountain seat and making some other subtle refinements and changes.
Let's start with the Freeride. No longer will it be part of the Summit family as the Freeride gets its own spot in the Ski-Doo lineup. We guess that's a promotion of sorts but make no mistake, the Freeride is still designed and built for western riding. Heading into its second season on the snow, the Freeride will offer three track lengths in 2012: 137, 146 and 154 inches.
The Freeride will once again be a spring-only sled but along with the track options sledders can choose from two different lug heights. On the 137-inch track the options are 1.75 or 2.25 inches while on the 146 and 154 the options are 2.25 or Ski-Doo's newest offering, 2.5 inches.
Ski-Doo also reconfigured the rear suspension on the Freeride for 2012. You'll remember that on the 2011 Freeride, the rear arm was 4.5 inches farther back in the rear suspension compared to a Summit. For 2012, the rear arm is moved forward to the same location as the Summit. The reason for the move was that Ski-Doo didn't like the reports that it was getting about the Freeride trenching in certain conditions. Moving the rear arm forward changes the geometry of the suspension, which should help the machine more easily stay on top of the snow. The rear suspension in the Freeride 146 and 154 is dubbed the SC 5M-2 and offers a more rising rate motion ratio, rail stiffener and four rear idler wheels. The Freeride 137 gets the SC 5 rear suspension.
Moving on to the Summit lineup, there are four changes for next season that really stand out. They are:
PowderMax II Track - Call it updated or redesigned or whatever you want but the PowderMax now features a 2.5-inch deep lug for what promises to be a monster grip on the snow. Remember that the PowderMax is 16 inches wide so when you add a 2.5-inch lug you can imagine what kind of grip you'll have on the snow. This version of the PowderMax is available on the Summit X, Summit SP and the aforementioned select Freeride models.
The new lug has a hollow design and, Ski-Doo claims, is strong while reducing the weight of the track 1.2 lbs. on a 154-inch track. Camoplast calls the design of the lug "backdraft" and when you look at the lug where it meets the track you can see how different the design is compared to other PowderMax tracks. The lug is 80 durometer at the base and tapers to 60 durometer at the tip. That means the tip is more flexible and is less prone to trenching than a stiffer durometer. While the tip is flexible, the new lug is ribbed to keep the stiffness the track needs for traction. Had Ski-Doo and Camoplast built the lugs the traditional way (not ribbed), it would have added about 1.5 lbs. to the track instead of reducing weight.
The track pattern remains the same and all tracks are non-ported as they were last year.
Pilot DS Skis - The DS Skis aren't new-they were on the Summit X and Freeride last year-but they will be on all Summits for 2012. The single-keel ski was designed to help in sidehilling with its thin outer edges and is shorter behind the spindle for easier countersteering.
Tapered Aluminum Handlebar - You'll find the same tapered aluminum handlebar that was first introduced on the 2011 Summit Freeride on the Summit X this year. What we like about this Ski-Doo move is that the riser block on the Freeride bars is 5 inches and now that makes the riser bar on the Summit X 5 inches instead of 6 inches. For some of us shorter riders that's a great switch and will help make the sled more manageable and rider-friendly. It's just too bad that the X and Freeride are the only Summits to get the handlebars.
With the move to the Freeride handlebars, the Summit X now has the same console control setup. The single hand/throttle warmer is now on the console instead of the handlebars. The small RER button is on the handlebar.
Seat - As much complaining as we've done in the past about Ski-Doo having a seat without a storage compartment, you would think we would have put this one right at the top of the list. This is going to be a great feature. The storage compartment is on the Rev XP narrow seat, which you'll find on Freeride, Summit X and Summit SP models. It features a split door closure and 1.3 gallons of storage.
You may have noticed the Summit SP models just mentioned. That would be the former Everest models. Of course there is still the X, along with the newly branded SP along with the Sport, which for 2012 comes with an additional engine choice: the Power TEK 800R motor. Last year it was offered with a 600cc carbureted engine only but now is joined by the 150-horsepower 800. As for the SP lineup for 2012, it features all E-Tec engines (600 and 800).