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September 13, 2010

2011 Ski-Doo Review

Unveils new Freeride, retooled Summit


 Well, here at SnoWest, we ended up batting about .500 on what we thought Ski-Doo was going to unveil for the mountains for model year 2011.

We were so busy patting ourselves on the back and high fiving each other after making the call that the E-Tec 800R engine would find a home in Summit skin, we missed any signs that were given on the potential for a new model—the Freeride. We were way out in left field on that one.

Yea, that one caught us looking.

In our own defense, with the economy the way it is and the overall snowmobile industry not able to escape the clutches of a down market, we weren’t even thinking “new model.”

However, looking back, we should have noticed some signs. It’s probably a no brainer that Ski-Doo would come out with a model like the Freeride, which now goes head-to-head with the wildly successful Polaris Assault RMK. Polaris sold a bunch of Assaults last season, showing there is a niche not just in the West for that kind of machine, but across many parts of the snowbelt.

And Ski-Doo wants a piece of that action.

The freeride segment was a loose mix of sleds in 2009-2010. Last year we lumped the Assault RMK, Ski-Doo’s Summit X-RS and the Arctic Cat HCR into the freeride class, a segment pretty much created by Polaris. Our thinking was that, although the X-RS and HCR were purpose built for snowmobile hillclimb racing, those two models were as close to the freeride segment as any in those two respective lineups.

Well, the X-RS was taken out of Ski-Doo’s lineup and replaced with the rookie Freeride. It’s a good move that undoubtedly will catch the attention of its competitors. It sure woke us up.

As excited as we are about the new Freeride, though, we’re just as excited about the reworked Summit. So let’s start there. While there are several changes on the Summit going into 2011, there are three primary reasons to stand up and take notice.

Rotax E-Tec 800R You might remember that E-Tec technology comes from BRP’s Evinrude outboard engines, offering much improved fuel and oil economy and a light throttle pull. We never really had any complaints about the power output on the Summit 800 Power Tek, but the throttle pull was brutal on that Rotax engine. Anyone who has ridden a 600 E-Tec knows how easy the throttle pull is. Expect that same benefit with the 800 E-Tec. The easier throttle pull can be attributed to using throttle bodies (E-Tec) versus carburetors (Power Tek).

The E-Tec has the same displacement—799cc—as the Power Tek but uses new cylinder heads (which was needed for the injectors), new pistons, new injectors (the plunger section has changed), new electronic oil pump (more capacity), new ECM (two more injector drivers—the 800 uses four compared to the 600 E-Tec, which uses two) and a new warm up mode.

Ski-Doo claims the E-Tec 800R will be able to beat the 151-horsepower rating of the 800 Power Tek, although final numbers weren’t available by the time we went to press with this issue. We did hear the number 155 hp floating around during the sneak peek but no firm numbers.

Ski-Doo also claims the 800 E-Tec gets 19 mpg, a 15 percent improvement over the Power Tek. As far as emissions go, the Normalized Emission Rate (the number on that little hang tag on the handlebars when you buy a sled) will be 4.6. The 800 Power Tek is 6.8.

S-36 Handling Package This package actually got started a year ago on the 2010 models and Ski-Doo continued to work on it over last winter and the off-season. The result is the S-36. The 36 refers to the new, 2-inch narrower ski stance on the Summit. The adjustable ski stance is now 35.7-37.4 inches. The narrowest setting on a 2010 Summit was 38.4 inches, which could be adjusted to 40.1 inches. To get the narrower ski stance, Ski-Doo revised its A-arms and front shock shafts.

This new handling package still uses the softer sway bar and longer center shock that Ski-Doo came out with last year on the Summit.

The whole intent of the S-36 is to help the sled roll up easier when sidehilling or when you want to lay it down in the powder (previous Summits tend to want to “lay down” when pulled up) as well provide a more predictable ride.

Another important part of the new handling package is the new skis—the Pilot DS (deep snow). You’ll find the Pilot DS only on the Summit X and Freeride models but if they work the way Ski-Doo claims they will, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the ski as standard fare on other models in the future.

There is no outer keel on the new Pilot DS, which also feature a thinner outer edge. This was designed to go through the powder more easily while reducing countersteering effort and helping hold a sidehill easier. The skis are narrower by 1 cm (.4 inches) and include more effective boot grips on the top of the ski.

Non-Ported Track This was another surprise the Ski-Doo sprung on us. “It was simply a floatability issue,” Ski-Doo’s Steve Cowing told us. Ski-Doo first introduced ported tracks on its Summits three seasons ago but is doing away with that version of the PowderMax on all its Summits for 2011. The goal is improved flotation and climbing with the non ported PowderMax. Ski-Doo says by eliminating the holes, it adds a square-foot of track surface. Ski-Doo testing showed the non-ported sleds consistently climbed 100-150 feet higher/farther than the ported version.

Now, onto the Freeride. This spring-only new model has many of the same features we’ve just covered, including the E-Tec 800R powerplant, non-ported PowderMax track (16x154x2.25-inch) and Pilot DS skis but there are some key differences between this model and other Summits.

1 - The ski stance will be wider (41.6-43.3) because the guys who buy and ride this will be launching from and jumping everything they can find in the backcountry. So a wider ski stance will provide a more stable landing.

2 - The handwarmer and RER controls have been moved from the handlebars to the console.

3 – Weight difference. At 489 lbs., the Freeride is 30 lbs. heavier than a Summit X 154 (459 lbs.). Why the difference? The shocks, reinforced chassis, idler wheels and wider running board all add to the Freeride’s weight.

4 – Sway bar quick disconnect. Sledders can easily disconnect/connect the sway bar without tools, according to their riding preference.

5 – SC-5MR rear suspension. This is the latest version of the Summit’s SC-5M rear suspension. Again, the design is aimed at the freeride segment and will provide better control in freeriding kinds of riding like jumping and landing. The rear arm is mounted 4.5 inches farther back in the rear suspension and a longer rear shock is used to better control transfer on hard acceleration while decreasing chassis pitch. The more rearward mounting position of the rear arm changes the pivot point on the rear skid.

Also, the rear shock valving is softened but the rider can adjust the valving according to the riding conditions for a particular day. Finally, there are reinforced rails and four rear idler wheels for extra durability.

6 – Graphic wraps. Trying to tap into the freeride “culture,” Ski-Doo is offering six different designs in two colors in an accessory wrap kit. Freeride buyers will receive the wrap kit of their choice with their purchase.

A full report on all these changes and how they relate to on-snow performance will come in the fall.



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