For several reasons, this winter has been one of most anticipated riding seasons we here at SnoWest Magazine can remember, not the least of which is the opportunity to ride the 2013 mountain 800 sleds--a class we think will be the most competitive ever.
We gave our readers a little teaser on our webpage www.snowest.com (if you missed it, go here: http://www.snowest.com/snowmobile-news/display.cfm?ID=3601) with some photos from our first rides. The purpose of those early rides, as with many snowmobilers on new sleds, is to break the machines in. So we didn't thrash them right out of the box or climb the tallest mountain we could find. At least on the first ride.
We were anxious to rekindle the memories we had of our last ride on the Arctic Cat M 800 Sno Pro, Polaris Pro RMK 800 and Ski-Doo Summit X 800 in West Yellowstone, MT, last March to see if the production versions of those mountain machines were going to be as good as the prototypes.
Our early season ride on the Arctic Cat was on the ProClimb XF 800 Sno Pro High Country Limited as well as the M 800 Sno Pro which was transformed into the project sled.
We've put a few miles on each machine in the backcountry of eastern Idaho and western Wyoming and so far we're still pretty impressed.
The real test, though, comes in January when we put each of those stock machines through the Deep Powder Challenge, our annual head-to-head battle of the mountain 800s.
So even though we haven't really put the machines through the wringer, we do have some initial thoughts. The following is from our panel of riders who have had the chance to put some miles on the sleds.
First rides are always hard to judge. First, you haven’t been riding a snowmobile for more than six months. Second, you’re so anxious to get on snow, anything with a motor and track is a bonus. And third, you are so out of riding shape that whatever you do ride still sort of feels like riding a bull.
This doesn’t even take in the factor that most new snowmobiles require a break-in period when they don’t perform to their full potential.
So what we have is a one-year-older, out-of-shape snowmobiler looking for his first ride of the season regardless of how bad the snow may be, trying to get a first impression on the new snowmobiles.
We’re sure you’re all dying to take his advice about the new models. Right?
Here’s what I like:
The new Polaris 800 is smooth and quick. It is easy to get up on an edge, even with the crusty snow we encountered early this season. The track works hard and provides incredible thrust up the mountain. It’s quick to react to your rider input … so you better be quick to maintain balance as you encounter ever-changing slopes.
The Arctic Cat 800 has plenty of grunt and feels strong on the snow. The track hooks up hard and the platform is well-balanced. It has a smooth ride on the trail. It does have a little bit of a bulky feel to it … and the back of the seat tends to get in the way when you're crossing over from side to side.
The Ski-Doo 800 is a soft-purring sled that delivers great power in a friendly fashion. It’s soft and easy to ride, yet it will take on even the steepest slopes and cruise to the top. This is a snowmobile that tends to fit anyone’s style. It has a balanced feel—not only from side to side, but from front to back.
SnoWest Tech Editor,
Great sled that is in another world when it comes to weight. If I'm spending a long day in the mountains, this is the sled I want to be on just because I'm not as tired at the end of the day.
Probably the easiest sled to roll up and tuck into a sidehill line. You can go for miles traversing slopes on this machine. And it has enough power to turn it straight up the hill.
M 800 Sno Pro
This sled is substantially better than the 2012 version. The 38-inch front end makes it a sidehilling machine that stacks up to any sled on the mountain. The suspension is awesome.
President of Harris Publishing
(hey you have to take the boss riding once in a while, right?)
Ski-Doo - I felt more confident and comfortable riding the Ski-Doo. I liked it better. I liked the suspension better, the feel better, the handlebars better and the seat was more comfortable.
Polaris - There was a section on the trail with some pretty serious wind drifts. I was going a little too fast and remember thinking to myself, "I'm going to endo," but the Polaris handled it pretty well. I thought I was going to lose it and I didn't. That is because the machine handled those deep drifts really well.
If the snow will cooperate, this is going to be one of my best riding seasons ever and it's because of these 2013 mountain 800s.
The Arctic Cat XF 800 Sno Pro High Country is better than the 2012 model. That was noticeable on the first ride. I like the power and its delivery. Want a short burst of power to jump a mogul? Jab the throttle and the machine reacts. One other thing that was noticeable came as we were riding a shelled-out section of an off-camber trail. The balance on the Cat was great and it landed fairly square when it came back down on the snow. And the track really hooks up.
The Polaris Pro RMK 800 is still the confidence-builder the machine has earned a reputation for. It feels light, light, light. And it rides light, light, light. Flickable is becoming an overused word with this sled, but it still describes it very accurately. I agree with Ryan that this RMK doesn't wear you out.
The Ski-Doo Summit X 800 is every bit as good as I remember it late last winter and spring. The powerplant really delivers and does it so smoothly. And unlike previous years' models, you don't have to wrestle the XM chassis on a sidehill. Lean and go. It's that easy.