No Sitting Still For No. 1 Ski-Doo

Published in the September 2009 Issue Industry News LANE LINDSTROM

Ski-Doo Summit X-RSWhen you're the No. 1 sled in the land (or at least in the West) it's news when you change anything on your snowmobile.

It's also news when you don't.

That's the price of fame, we guess.

So where does Ski-Doo fit into those two lines of thought? It depends on who's asking.

Some look at the 2010 lineup from Ski-Doo and see very little change. Others dig a little deeper and find that some subtle-yet very important-changes are being made to the maneuverability of the Summits.

When we say maneuverability, we mean how the Summit lays down in the powder and holds a sidehill, not how it bombs down the trail. It's a refinement some (including us) have been clamoring for for awhile and one that Ski-Doo thinks it has a pretty good handle on for 2010.

Ski-Doo seems to have the weight thing cornered and its powerplant is strong. The suspension works well so it turned its focus on one area that was lacking-how it works off-trail in powder turns as well as on the hillside.

Before we get to how Ski-Doo worked on that for 2010, we'll look at what else is new for the upcoming season.

No more Summit Fan. This might not break many people's hearts, but the Summit Fan was a good price point sled for those looking to cut their teeth in snowmobiling. With the demise of the Summit Fan, the Summit Sport becomes Ski-Doo's new entry level sled. You may know this model as the Summit Everest 600, but the name has been changed for 2010. Same sled, different name.

New Rev XP seat. This is a nice change from the wider, shorter Summit seat that is now being replaced. The new seat is 1.25 inches taller and .75 inches narrower and has a much better feel to it while riding, although we're still not crazy about the seat covering, which is still a little sticky for our liking. Generally speaking, Ski-Doo has been pretty good to spread its new innovations across the entire line, except for spring only models. That means, for example, if the company comes out with a new seat, the entire lineup usually gets the seat, not just the high-end models. This is true for this seat. Every model from the Summit X-RS all the way down to the Summit Sport get the new seat.

Clearing the air about the engine choices. We think we made it pretty clear in our last issue that, while Ski-Doo had shown us a Summit model with a Rotax 1200 4-Tec four-stroke engine in it and we actually rode it, the engine was scrapped in the Summit skin for 2010. We made it pretty clear except for one spot on page 54 in the March 2009 issue of SnoWest. So one more time, there won't be a Summit with a 1200 4-Tec for 2010. How about for the future? We'll have to wait and see.

Revised steering ratio. The change is slight, but it makes a big difference in the ease of steering the Summits. Ski-Doo modified its steering post at the bottom to achieve the change. It changes the steering ratio down where the tie rods connect to the steering rod because it is a little shorter on the arm length, specifically from the main part of the steering tube to the holes for the ball joint and steering arm. That ratio change makes it easier to turn, although you lose a little turning radius. This change was made across the Summit lineup.

X-RS exclusives. This is the same sled that Ski-Doo ships to its professional hillclimbers but that any consumer can purchase. It does have a wider ski stance (41.6-43 inches) compared to other Summits but it also has a reinforced rear suspension, a premium shock package in the rear suspension (which is part of beefing up the rear) and an upgraded gauge. Ski-Doo uses an HPG Plus R on the front suspension, which is the same shock as on the Summit X but in the rear, the X-RS gets KYB Pro 36 shocks. Some of the features of this high pressure gas KYB include 20-position high-speed compression adjustment, a no tool low speed compression (16 positions) and they're rebuildable and revalvable.

The gauge features a nifty 10-minute record mode which allows racers and consumers alike to replay 10 minutes of gauge readings, ideal for tuning.

Handling. We called this maneuverability earlier in the story but it has to do with the Summit's handling in very specific conditions. If the Summit has had one knock against it, it's been how it lays down in the powder and how easy it is to hold on a sidehill. You can lay a Summit down in the powder when you're doing those tight donuts and you can sidehill with it, but both maneuvers were work-more work than rivals Arctic Cat and Polaris.

So to fix that issue, Ski-Doo went to work on a handling package that affects a handful of areas on the machine. First, a softer sway bar is used. It's a smaller diameter than what you'd find on the '09 model, which allows it to twist or flex easier instead of grabbing spring pressure from the other side of the front suspension. That makes the Summit easier to pull on its side and keep it there, instead of the machine wanting to flatten back down on the snow.

Next, Ski-Doo is using a longer center shock (35mm or 1.38 inches), which changes the approach angle of the track, making the approach steeper on the snow. That necessitated a change in the rails, bending them to accommodate the new approach angle. The difference between where the 2009 rail (or rather, the track) would lay on the snow and the 2010 approach angle is two inches or 7 degrees.

Ski-Doo also changed the rocker arm, but that had more to do with accommodating the longer shock than it did with changing the geometry or leverage ratios.

The end result is not only more travel but more pressure at the front of the rails, which, Ski-Doo claims, allows an easier transition to sidehilling and/or laying the sled down in deep powder. It makes sense because if you have "less" track on the snow with a steeper track angle, you can pull the machine up and hold it there more easily.

Finally, Ski-Doo has recalibrated all four shocks on its Summits. That included reducing the high speed compression, increasing low speed damping and reducing the rebound damping. That lets the suspension return to the extended position faster.

Summit flatland calibration. Ski-Doo is offering two Summit 800R models with a low altitude calibration from the factory. Some consumers who live at low elevations are buying Summits and wanted them calibrated for their altitude instead of higher western elevations, so Ski-Doo complied.

There is one other new for 2010 item worth mentioning from Ski-Doo's lineup and that's the Renegade. More specifically, it's the Renegade Backcountry that caught our attention. We won't jump into the Renegade Backcountry X, which was a spring-only model with the 800R engine, because you probably can't get one anymore. However, you can get the Renegade Backcountry with the 600 H.O. E-Tec with a 16x137x1.75-inch PowderMax track. It also comes with Pilot 6.9 dual-runner skis, an adjustable ski stance, lower gearing and a Summit-specific belt. This Renegade is more Summitish than in the past, when this model was considered an MX Z. The Renegades are their own model now and the Backcountry goes with a deeper lug track and the wider skis to make that point. Sledders will like it better off-trail than in the past with the shorter lug track.

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