2013 800cc Mountain Sled Snow Test

Published in the November 2012 Issue December 2013 Snow Tests LANE LINDSTROM

Most Competitive Mountain 800 Class Ever

Looking back over the past few years (say, five to seven), a time when we feel the mountain 800 class has become extremely competitive, revealed some interesting statements regarding what we think about the 800 class.

One year we wrote, "We've been waiting for a year like this one. Maybe for too long. Polaris, Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat all showing up at the game with the best 800 mountain sleds any of them have ever built."

Last year, we wrote this: "Has the mountain segment of 800 class snowmobiles ever been as competitive as it is going into the 2012 model year? . we have the makings for a spectacular battle for king of the hill on western slopes."

So what do we say this year if we think the 2013 crop of mountain 800s will be the most competitive ever?

Well, uhmmm, how about this? The 2013 mountain 800 segment is definitely the most competitive class in the mountains ever since three of the four major snowmobile manufacturers have been manufacturing twin-cylinder 800s.


No Hesitation Whatsoever

We don't even hesitate to say the contenders for 2013 are as good a class of 800 sleds as there ever has been, making the mountain 800 segment one of the best on snow-anywhere on snow and that includes the flatlands. There's a reason that the three top-selling snowmobiles in North America last year were 800cc mountains sleds. It's one tough class.

The reigning champion of the mountain 800s is the Polaris 800 Pro RMK. How good is it? It's not just the best selling snowmobile in the mountains; it's the best-selling snowmobile in the North American snowbelt. Now that's saying something, considering the mountain sled market is about 30 percent of the overall snowmobile market. Sledders wouldn't be plunking down $11,000 plus for something that didn't deliver. The 800 Pro RMK is light, has decent power and is one of the most nimble snowmobiles ever made, which is why it shines in the backcountry and technical terrain. It returns for 2013 lighter and ready to defend its title.

Ready to rock the steep and deep and push the 800 Pro RMK right off the top of the mountain is the new Ski-Doo Summit X 800, which has most decidedly got game for 2013. Several innovative features from the rear suspension to the track to the skis to the seat-and more-will help the new XM chassis put some serious pressure on the current king of the mountain. As one SnoWest SnowTest rider put it, "The Pro RMK is the sled to beat in 2013. The Summit XM is the sled that very well could pull that off." The Summit X's chances of doing just that are the best they've been in years. It's a head-to-head battle we don't want to miss and look forward to being a part of. And we don't think it will be a win-by-one-or-two-sled-lengths game; rather, it will be ski tip to ski tip close.

Then there's the Arctic Cat M 800 Sno Pro, which some might call the underdog in the mountain 800 class. The M 800 is not to be overlooked and has the tools to be right in there with the other two 800s.This Cat is ready to pounce with several new features of its own for 2013, refinements that improve the sled's ride and dependability. Cat was slowed a little last season by "injuries" (read: a few problems) but went to great efforts to right those for this season. Cat officials say the M 800 is 100 percent for the upcoming season. Showing that the M 800 has its head in the game and is a sled to be reckoned with, it was the No. 2 seller in North America behind the 800 Pro RMK last year. That's how much attention Cat stirred up when it released the new ProClimb chassis last season.

Quality Seat Time

We've had a chance to ride each of the mountain 800s for several days last winter and have formulated our pre-2012-13 winter picks as to which sled is the one we think will rise to the top-literally and figuratively-next season. Which sled is it? Yea, well, you might have predicted that since there are four members of the SnoWest SnowTest crew that we're evenly split between the Polaris 800 Pro RMK and the Ski-Doo Summit X 800. One SnowTester who asked to remain anonymous (Lane) claims he might change his pick from the 800 Pro RMK to the Summit X 800 after one more head-to-head ride in deep powder. We're not so sure that if you asked Lane on a different day what his top pick was he wouldn't go with the Summit X 800, just ahead of the 800 Pro RMK. It's that close. 

And "deep powder" is the key there, as that will be the true test of how they match up. We felt very lucky to have had all three 800s in great snow conditions late last February at the annual manufacturers' photo shoots. It was the best snow we experienced all winter and it was a great opportunity to test in deep powder. We would like just one more good testing session like that to go head-to-head again. It doesn't matter how many pictures we look at, how many powerpoint presentations we watch and how many specs we pore over, nothing can replace seat time.

The SnowTest crew's picks were as close as any we can remember in recent years. That's why we're so anxious to get summer over with and ride these three machines again. Either we will reaffirm our present choices or something will sway us to a different choice.

The Deep Powder Challenge will help sort things out, too. But we won't learn the results of that event until late January/early February.

Still, we did make our picks on a number of areas important to western riders, including everything from skis to tracks to power to seats to suspensions to the best sidehiller to the best handling on the trail-15 areas in all, including our overall favorite 800s. Those top picks are scattered throughout this story in graphs.   

While we may joke around a little about the 800s, we know what's at stake. The mountain market is one of the only positive signs in an industry that's not what it used to be in terms of snowmobile sales. It's more than bragging rights for the manufacturers in the 800 class; it can mean increased sales of snowmobiles.

So how do we think this winter season will shake out? Here's a look at each manufacturer's mountain 800 with details on each sled's strengths, any weaknesses and why each is a contender for king of the hill.


2012 SW 2012 2013

Arctic Cat ProClimb M 800 n/a 498 lbs. n/a

Polaris 800 Pro RMK 431 lbs. 458 lbs. 417 lbs.

Ski-Doo Summit X 800 459 lbs. 489 lbs. 464 lbs.


2012 2013 Difference

Arctic Cat ProClimb M 800 $12,099 $12,349 $250

Polaris 800 Pro RMK $11,799 $12,199 $400

Ski-Doo Summit X 800 $12,249 $12,349 $100

Normalized Emission Rate (NER)

Ski-Doo 800 E-Tec 4.9

Polaris 800 CleanFire 5.1

Arctic Cat 800 EFI 7.0

The normalized emission rate is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is an expression of a snowmobile engine's exhaust emissions level. Values range from 0 to 10, with 0 the lowest in emissions and 10 representing higher exhaust emissions. 

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