Light Is Right

Manufacturers continue to spoil the West

March 2008 Feature Viewed 687 time(s)

Light is right. That's the message we at SnoWest Magazine have been preaching for years for the mountain segment of snowmobiles.

And, for the most part, that's the mantra of those building mountain snowmobiles for the steep and deep.

Snowmobile manufacturers have been looking to shave weight anywhere possible, from the bolts and rivets used to tracks to the metals that make up a snowmobile. And everything in between.

Of course, we in the West want our snowmobiles to be light and reliable. Nothing irks us more than to be 15 or so miles in the backcountry and have something go south on us. It doesn't matter how light the sled is if it ain't going anywhere. That's why we're impressed with the efforts the manufacturers have made in the reliability department, too. Sure, there have been some issues with first year models but, for the most part, things have been pretty clean the past couple of years.

It's interesting that while the common theme in the mountains is lightweight sleds, each manufacturer works hard to carve out its own niche, even in its mountain lineup.

Finally, Good News

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the mountain lineup, it's worth noting that snowmobile sales through the end of December were up across the North American snow belt. That's especially good news in light of the fact that the trend has been downward for the past several years.

It just goes to show that while new technology and new models are good news, snow is even better news. Folks will buy snowmobiles when there's snow. Crazy, huh? The latest figures we got by press time was that, because of good early snow across the snowbelt, snowmobile sales were up 10 percent. One snowmobile manufacturer pointed out that its dealer inventories were down 25 percent by the end of December-and that's good news, too, because that means the pipeline of non current sleds is being cleaned out.

That's all good news because when sleds sell, snowmobile manufacturers can put more money into R&D and that's when consumers come out winners.

But there's plenty new for '09, as the following pages will show.

Manufacturer By Manufacturer

Arctic Cat returns to the mountains with three engine sizes: 600, 800 and the 1000, the industry's largest. Track lengths range from 153 to 162 inches. Various M sleds have gone on diets, some losing as much as 20 plus pounds.

Polaris has nine mountain models in four engine sizes: Fan, 600, 700 and 800, which includes the all new 800 Assault RMK. Most of the other RMKs also shed some weight, upwards of 15 lbs. Track lengths vary from 136 inches to 163 inches.  

The lightweight theme has really paid off for Ski-Doo, now the No. 1 seller of mountain machines in the West. The big news in Ski-Doo's mountain lineup is the addition of the E-TEC motor to the 600 class as well as the new 500SS Summit Everest. And you don't even have to spring order (although you can) a Summit to get the new E-TEC engine, it comes in an in-season model as well.

Yamaha has been hard at work as well and western riders will be interested in the new FX Nytro XTX with a 144-inch track, the newest crossover (or hybrid or whatever you want to call the combo trail/mountain segment). Yamaha has been busy in other segments as well, but we aren't allowed to talk about them by the time this issue went to press so you'll have to be content with reading about the mountain models and other news from the company on and next season's issues.

One trend that is very noticeable for 2009 from some of the manufacturers is to go longer (track length, that is) in the crossover segment. We're going to pay a little more attention to that segment this next winter as that is certainly an appealing class to some.

We've had a chance to ride a handful of the new 2009 models and have given some of our riding impressions but just know we rode pre-production models and calibration was still being finalized on the motors and suspensions. That's why we are looking forward to riding them all again in early March and the photo shoots. Then we'll give you the full rundown in next season's issues
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