If you are looking to buy a snowmobile for mountain riding, there are three unique styles of snowmobiles which are designed specifically for mountain riding. And although all three are very similar in how they function in deep snow, each one goes about it in distinctly different ways.
Last spring I spent a lot of time riding each of the three brands of mountain snowmobiles—with various engine sizes and track lengths—trying to find the perfect snowmobile for the West.
What I discovered is that every snowmobiler tends to work from an individualized criteria of features that they prefer from a mountain sled. Some like power, some like flotation, and some like predictability.
So rather than assuming I know what you need out of a mountain sled, I have accumulated a list of what we like in each of the three models.
Ski-Doo—Summit Expert Package
Although the Summit X features most of the same characteristics as the Expert Package, there are a few subtleties that make the Expert Package the sled of choice—regardless of the track length.
For the record, I tend to lean toward the 165-inch by 3-inch track … but have no problems with the 154-inch track in the Expert Package. Both handle the deep snow superbly and are comfortable on the trails. I just lean toward the 165-inch track for the slower riding in the trees.
Here are the five features that top my list on this particular model.
1) Rev Gen4 Platform. For riders who are more calculated and under control, the Gen4 Platform is easy to ride. The trademark pyramidal frame, new die-cast aluminum front suspension module and new heat exchanger are designed to be lightweight for deep-snow riding.
The platform not only provides a stable area to stand and balance the ride of the sled, but also allows you to initiate turns with minimal effort. You don’t need to use your throttle to break the track free and reset the track angle. You can lean and roll, turning slow-speed turns into slow motion. With other brands, you spend a lot of time reacting to the balance change with throttle action. But with the Gen4 Platform, your throttle action complements the shift of balance.
2) Rotax 850 E-Tec. Ski-Doo claims it’s the most powerful 2-stroke engine in the industry and pumps out 10 more horsepower (165 hp) than its predecessor. We didn’t put it on a dyno for verification (a lot of performance shops have … and tend to support this claim), but we do find the powerband broad and sufficient for even the longest, steepest slopes.
The 850 E-Tec is quick and responsive. It matches perfectly with the new pDrive primary clutch for instant acceleration. The broad powerband makes it not only as smooth on the bottom end as a 600, but very predictable as it continues to build power throughout the throttle. You are never caught off balance with the sled trying to jump out from under you.
3) SHOT. Although it’s commonly referred to as electric start … it’s not. The E-Tec Shot starter uses advanced technology that uses energy stored in the ultra-capacitor to turn the magneto into an electric motor that rotates the flywheel and starts the engine when you push the bottom on the left handlebar.
This push-button start (after being initially started the old-fashioned way of pulling a rope) eliminates the need for a battery and electric starter, thus saving you about 20 lbs. It’s exclusive to E-Tec technology and is the envy of the industry.
4) Full-Length Profile Running Boards. Complementing the Gen4 Platform, Ski-Doo has re-designed its full-length extruded aluminum running boards to feature a grid-style design with wide openings for exceptional snow evacuation and superior grip. The flat foot positioning is always clear of snow, so there’s always room for you.
With the new design comes a shorter tunnel. Basically, Ski-Doo has shortened the tunnel, shrunk the snow flap and cleaned up the end to allow snow to pass through the system and out the back end rather than being recirculated back around the top of the track, stealing power and contributing to snow buildup in front of the track.
5) Deep Snow Ergonomics. The Expert Package includes a lower seat, shorter handlebar riser, smaller diameter handlebars and low handlebar strap for the ultimate advantage in deep snow. None of these features are earth-shattering. But each tends to bring an increased level of control over the snowmobile.
The smaller seat allows you to move across your sled with less interference. The shorter riser gives you increased leverage when you are pulling your sled over on an edge. The smaller bars reduce arm fatigue while improving your grip. And the lower mountain strap is there when you need it while not getting in the way when you don’t.