SnoWest Deep Powder Challenge

Burying the Competition: Steep and deep can stop the Rev XP

March 2008 Feature Steve Janes Viewed 1181 time(s)

You can't beat deep powder-the kind that swallows your sled as you float through it, swirling around you and absorbing every ounce of the sled's power as you press your way up the mountain. The kind of snow that forces you to stand, if nothing else just to avoid its wake as it crests over your snowmobile and into your chest.

            You just can't beat it.

            For the past several winters the SnoWest Deep Powder Challenge has been more of a horsepower hardpack drag race. But finally, this year we had snow. Deep snow. Challenging snow. Unbeatable snow. We had a deep powder challenge.

            We had sleds getting stuck. One after another after another. And then we had a sled that didn't.

This year we didn't need to wait until we got back to the office and analyze the data to pick a winner. The winner was the sled that went over the hill after the competition dug holes.

            The Ski-Doo Rev XP 800 proved that weight matters. It proved that staying on top of deep powder will take you up the slope. When the competition started to trench, the XP 800 started to shine, leaving no doubt what sled reigned that day.

            This year's Deep Powder Challenge was held Jan. 15-17 in Island Park, ID. One storm system after another had been pounding their way through the area, making roads slick and drifting, forcing school closures and leaving substantial powder in Idaho's Centennial Mountain Range.

            Four snowmobile dealers battled the elements to be in Island Park for this year's event-High Mark Recreation of Boise, ID, representing Polaris; The Edge Motorsports of Draper, UT, representing Ski-Doo; Outlaw Motor Sports of Enterprise, OR, representing Yamaha; and Mountain Magic Sports of Preston, ID, representing Arctic Cat.       Each dealer brought two stock sleds for the Deep Powder Challenge, and one mod sled to show off the kind of work they do at their dealership.

Getting Started

            The first order of business was to get an accurate weight of each snowmobile prior to hitting the snow.

            As the dealers arrived, we made certain every sled was topped with gas and oil and then we put them on the scales. After all, most snowmobilers prefer to ride with gas and oil, so wet weights are important. However, we also calculated each sled's weight without gas and oil. (We don't think you should penalize a manufacturer for offering a larger gas/oil tank on its sled.)

            The Rev XP was not only lighter, but way lighter-39 pounds under the M8 and 52 pounds under the Dragons.

            And just for kicks, we weighed each of the four brands after our ride (when the suspension is full of snow and ice). Ski-Doo's weight increased by 23 pounds; Polaris was 27 pounds heavier; Yamaha was 44 pounds heavier and the Cats were 50 pounds heavier. What's interesting here is that Ski-Doo and Polaris have "punched" tracks while Cat and Yamaha don't. Apparently, holes in the track will clean the snow out of the system . by nearly double.

First Ride

            Tuesday afternoon was cold and windy on the mountain. Just busting the trail back into Mt. Jefferson took considerable effort. Our route runs through trees and up ridges, requiring a whole lot of zigzagging and boondocking.

            Once on top, we were riding in the cloud with flat light and very little definition in the snow. It put you in a catch 22 situation-you wanted to move slow so you wouldn't drop into any holes are fly off any cornices as you crossed the various drainages that mark the top end of Hell Roaring Canyon . but you needed to maintain a good speed and momentum to plow through the deep snow.

            When you combine the conditions to the fact that we were also packing our camera gear, computer and other equipment needed to conduct our tests, you see that this wasn't just an easy ride up the mountain. And due to the winds, we chose to stay away from wind-loaded slopes where the risk of avalanche would be greater.

            Our first test hill (Test 1) was just north of Brower's Springs one ridge east of Mt. Jefferson. The sleds staged at 8,900 feet elevation and climbed a 700-foot slope that was mostly wind-swept and rose 400 feet in elevation.

            This was a good starting point since there was a solid base that allowed all the sleds to stay on top of the snow. (We've already been stuck enough just busting the trail in . so we didn't want to add any more excitement to our lives that first day.) And as expected, horsepower and hookup were the two most prominent factors in the results.

            The M1000 flew up the course over a half-second faster than the Dragon 800 (or by about four sled lengths).

            Due to the blowing, the snowing and the sun setting, we cut the first day's tests short and retreated back to the warmth of our cabin at Sawtelle Estates.

Day 2

            Wednesday morning we awoke to blue skies, cold temperatures and a great day for testing. The first order of business, besides breakfast, was to conduct some speed runs across the meadow (Test 2).

            At the elevation of 6,400 feet over a 1,500-foot course that was flat and tracked, the M8 surprised us with the top speed and time of the group, beating the M1000 by a quarter-second (nearly three sled lengths). The Dragon 800 finished with the third best time (about seven sled lengths behind the M8) about a sled length ahead of the Apex (which had the third best top-end speed).

            Actually, the holeshot went to the Rev XP (146-track) which covered the first 100 feet in 2.83 seconds. The M8 had the third slowest holeshot . but made up for it in the first 500 feet of the course.

            By midmorning we had wrapped up our speed runs and loaded up to spend the day back on Jefferson. With clear visibility and no wind, we were ready to collect some real data for our tests.

            We returned to the first test site just north of Brower's Springs. We extended the test hill to 900 feet in hopes to stretch out the sleds. And once again, this course was suited for horsepower and the M1000 dominated (Test 3).

            The big difference on this test was the two Rev XPs which finished second and third, dropping the Dragon 800 to fourth and M8 to fifth.

            The M1000 was actually a quarter-second slower coming out of the holeshot for the first 100 feet, but made up the difference in the middle part of the hill. The Rev XP (154-track) took the holeshot but still finished just under a sled length behind the M1000 .. but about three sled lengths ahead of the XP (146-track).

            The peak speed reached on the course was just over 36 mph.

Looking For Powder

            We decided it was time to get right to the heart of the issue-how the sleds performed in deep powder.

            We rode down Hell Roaring Canyon on the south side of Jefferson. We staged at 8,275-feet elevation at the base of a ridge separating the bottom of the drainage at Hell Roaring Creek to the slope of Jefferson. The snow was deep and fluffy with no packed base-this was a true powder run-and the slope was just over 35 degrees. (There were actually two steep faces on the slope-one at 300 feet and the other at 600 feet.) We tracked up the staging area right were the slope takes off, literally putting the ski tips in untouched powder. Each run we would move over a track width to attack the slope in untracked snow (Test 4).

            First on the slope was the M8 . which proceeded to climb 223 feet before settling into a deep fluffy grave. (In three tries it could only best 324 feet.) Then came the Dragon 700, which scratched its way through the tough part of the slope around the 230-foot mark, and slowly regained its momentum through the 600-foot mark before crawling out the top at around 800 feet in just over 44 seconds.

            The next sled on the slope was the Nytro . which augered in at 160 feet. Then came the Rev XP (154-track) which raced over the top in 31 seconds, making the run look relatively easy and catching everyone's attention. (Proceeding runs showed the same results with times actually improving by four seconds.)

            Now came the M1000. It's first run netted 237 feet before getting stuck. (Second and third runs netted 296 and 668 feet, respectively.) By now, an uncomfortable silence settled on the group. Up until now, all sleds seemed to be competing on an equal plain. But now the bar had been raised and the competition was coming up short.

            The sixth sled in this test, the Dragon 800, pulled up to the line . and in less than 15 seconds was buried in at 254 feet. (Three additional runs only netted 346 feet of climbing distance.)

            Then came the Rev XP (146 track), tearing up the 800-foot course in 33 seconds (followed by 29 seconds in a subsequent run), making Ski-Doo two-for-two in making the hill look easy. The final run was the Apex . which lasted only 209 feet and 14 seconds.

            There was no doubt as to the domination of the Rev XP in this particular test hill, even though the Ski-Doos actually were slower than the Dragon 800 and M8 over the first 50 feet of the hill.

Up To Speed

            So what if we created a "launch pad" per se for the sleds-a 15-yard run packed at the slope before hitting the fresh stuff (Test 5).

            Again, eight sleds started, four sleds made it to the top, and two sleds made it look easy.

            Naturally, the weight factor just kills the Yamahas in these snow conditions. They were two of the casualties at just over 300 feet up the hill.

            Surprisingly, the other two casualties were the M8 and Dragon 8. The M8 trenched out at just over 600 feet. The Dragon 800 crawled up to 700 feet before it lost its thrust up the slope and dug in.

            The M1000 was third fastest going over the top, finishing about two seconds behind the Rev XP (154-track). And the Dragon 700 was the fourth sled to make it over the top . about five seconds slower than the Ski-Doos.

            After all eight sleds made their pass, it was obvious that the Rev XPs were king of the fluff. And by now our day was getting long and it was time to head on out. Besides, it was tech night and we wanted to have plenty of time to examine the snowmobiles to ensure all maintained their "stock" status . which they did.


            The final day of testing was quite simple. We wanted to see how the sleds handled while going up a mountain slope with left and right turns, both on and off camber. Here, to make time, you had to make corners and the clutches had to backshift.

            We ran each snowmobile up the course twice-once with our rider and once with the dealer's rider-to ensure the sled was getting fair representation (Test 6).

            For our course we used the ridge coming out of Garner Canyon just south of Two Top. The course was just under a half-mile long. The snow was tracked, yet somewhat loose.

            The M1000 proved to be the fastest sled on the hill, running the course in just over 43 seconds. The Rev XP (146-track) turned in the second fastest time at 46 seconds, followed by the Dragon 700 at 46.6 seconds.

            The Polaris sleds handled the best on the course, followed by the Cats. The Revs seemed to bounce a little off the course, but could maintain speed even when they blew corners and went in fresh snow. The Yamahas required the most amount of effort to keep them on the course due to their weight, especially on the off-camber turns.

Final Thoughts

            If you take away the deep powder, the M1000 seemed to control the competition. But since it is called the Deep Powder Challenge, we tend to give a little more emphasis to the sleds that dominate in the deep and steep.

            The Rev XPs ran flawless. We found the 146-inch track was the easier snowmobile to ride and seemed to be just right on top of the 154-inch track in most tests. (Our riders preferred riding the 146 because it handled the tight mountain trails a lot easier than the 154.)

            The Cats seemed to trench in deep snow, costing them time and momentum in the uphill tests. Sometimes a track and approach angle can be just too aggressive. As for the Polaris', perhaps it was a taste of bad fuel, but the Dragon 800 just didn't have the edge like the Dragon 700.

            Yamaha comes to the show knowing that it's spotting a minimum of 40-100 pounds to the competition. That may not be a factor when you're running horizontally . but as you approach vertical, it's just too much handicap to overcome.

            So it comes down to just one image, one hypothetical situation: If you find yourself in the bottom of a canyon in deep powder where the only way out is to turn the sled upward and grab a handful of throttle . you probably better be on the Rev XP if you don't want to spend the night in a snow cave.

When all is said and done, you just can't beat deep powder . or can you? The Rev XP may have proved you can.

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