It used to be the snowmobile manufacturers would design a snowmobile for a very specific intent (mountain riding), but use basic components found throughout their respective product lines in the manufacturing process. This means simple features like seats, running boards, handlebar risers, etc., would not necessarily be “mountain” specific.
Manufacturers would leave the fine-tuning of these components for aftermarket manufacturers. The challenge, though, was deciding whether the cost of replacing a working component was worth the slight advantage you could gain.
Ski-Doo was no different. Its Summit 850 has dominated on the snow … but it still could use a little refinement. Ski-Doo engineers identified several areas where the Summit could subtly be improved. But these improvements come with a cost. So rather than just making the Summit better but more expensive, Ski-Doo decided to create the “Expert Package” which would come with 10 subtle yet notable changes … and a little higher price tag. This way they still could advertise their Summit at the base price but try to up-sell their buyers to a better sled.
Keep in mind, the Summit as a base sled is already one of the best mountain sleds ever made. It works. It is aggressive in the deep and steep. It will get you where you want to go. With that said, however, the Expert will do anything the Summit can do … only better.
10 Notable Improvements
The 10 most significant improvements the 2020 Expert has over the Summit are: Significantly smaller snow flap, shorter tunnel, better running boards, improved front suspension, improved rear suspension, lower and lighter seat, lower handlebar risers, smaller diameter handlebars, adjustable limiter strap and improved ski boot.
Some of these are so subtle that you will overlook them initially. Others will jump right out at you. We suspect that the more visually noticeable changes will get most of the attention—like the tunnel/snow flap combination that allows the Expert to cruise through much deeper snow more easily.
Ski-Doo shortened the tunnel/track ratios from the Summit by about five inches for the Expert. Basically, the company took its 146-inch tunnel and mounted it to the 154-inch skid/track (4.3 inches shorter). They took the 154-inch tunnel and mounted it to the 165-inch skid/track (5.25 inches). Then they took the snow flap and replaced it with a snow visor—just enough to deflect the snow from coming back around the top. The result is more snow gets evacuated from the tunnel. You will likely credit the decreased drag from the shorter tunnel to the increased power while not realizing that the less snow being recycled back through the tunnel results in freeing up more horsepower.
This improvement also allows your reverse to work much better on the Expert. If the Summit had a shortcoming, it was when you went to back up. The tunnel and snow flap just worked against you. The snow flap would push back under the track and then the backend would be sucked down as the track pulled the flap farther under.
However, with the Expert you will no longer back over your snow flap. We found you could back up in almost any conditions … at least enough to change direction or create a better base under your track if you need to jump out of a hole.
Unnoticed But Noticeable
Another change that will likely go unrecognized but certainly not unnoticed is the new lightweight ski spindle. Its design, along with a new spindle/ski stopper, keeps the tip of the ski from lifting in powder (and actually pushing snow rather than floating through snow) and allows the tip to drop lower to maintain contact with the terrain. The lightweight ski spindle and ski stopper work together to improve sidehilling and predictability.
The Expert also features a shock package with stiffer calibration with improved performance and durability compared to the Summit. The HPG Plus shock bodies are Kashima-coated with a lightweight spring on the front suspension. There is also an HPG Plus with lightweight spring in the center shock to go with the KYP Pro 36 piggyback shock on the rear of the Expert.
Ski-Doo also added the Forty7C Performance Seat to the Expert which lets you sit a little lower and provides more clearance for your legs when you swing from one side of the snowmobile to the other.
Everything about the Expert just seems to work. It’s quicker, better in the bumps and easier to control/predict in the snow. The Summit was good. The Expert is better.
Although some will feel the handlebars are a tad low on the Expert (you can always increase the length of your risers), you will notice that the smaller diameter handlebars will feel much more comfortable and will reduce arm fatigue.
The Expert is a better sled … and one that makes you a better rider. The Expert delivers everything I want in a mountain snowmobile, and then some. But it is a “spring only” order so you may have to wait until next year to get one.