Seldom do I ride a sled that looks similar to the last year’s model but performs significantly different. The Summit X with Expert Package is such a sled. I was lucky enough to be among the few editors allowed to see and ride this sled in January.
At the beginning of this project, Ski-Doo engineers consulted their backcountry experts for their opinions on changes they would like for the Ski-Doo Summit models to make them more capable with their riding styles and conditions. This feedback came primarily from their expert riders, Carl Kuster, Brett Rasmussen and Tony Jenkins (with others being consulted, some without even knowing at the time). Thus, the name Expert package for this model.
At first glance it is pretty obvious that Ski-Doo has outfitted this sled with a short tunnel for the track length they are using. Essentially the 165” sled gets the 154” tunnel length with the bottom rear of the tunnel being modified so that the track skates off of it rather that grabbing it if it ever contacts. Also, the traditional full-length snow flap is gone, being replaced by a much shorter one. This new piece is a rubber flap that projects out the back to keep the snow and ice chunks and any other debris mostly off of the rider. These changes were done to make the sled perform better in deep, technical riding conditions. On traditional sleds, when you start to lose forward momentum, the snow flap and rear of the tunnel tend to hang up in the trench not allowing the snow to evacuate out, eventually leaving you stuck. Also, in deep, technical riding conditions, we are using aggressive sidehill and turning techniques where you feel the rear of the tunnel and snow flap hanging up on occasion. Ski-Doo found that they could eliminate these negative characteristics by simply getting rid of the rear of the tunnel and snow flap, and the restrictions they created.
As soon as you get into deep snow conditions and make a downhill sidehill to uphill transition, you notice immediately how much less drag there is in the rear from the tunnel and snow flap. The sled is much quicker to respond and has much less of a tendency to get stuck. I have been using a removeable snow flap on my 2018 Summit FreeRide, and even comparing to that sled, I can tell a big difference. Toward the rear, the side of the tunnel starts to plow through the snow when doing this kind of maneuver and not having it there makes it that much easier and quicker to do. Essentially, not having anything back there to hang up allows you to do things quicker without the drag of the tunnel and snow flap. The 165 models we rode in January were proof of this. Less momentum has to be carried as the drag is reduced and the distance required is much shorter. Riding this sled for a couple of days in January has left me missing it since.
The suspension has been upgraded as well with new KYB shocks up front outfitted with new steel alloy springs that are 70 grams lighter. The rear shock is an adjustable piggyback design much like the FreeRide has came with. These shocks are high end, and even tout Kashima™ coatings to provide less friction and stiction for better ride quality and improved durability.
The ski rubber has also been modified with a metal insert to reduce ski tip movement in an upward direction. This keeps the ski more parallel with the snow, even in deep snow conditions. The spindle is a new alloy, which is 200 grams lighter per side and said to be just as strong. Even though the spindle looks the same as the previous model, it has been shaped in the rear to allow more ski tip movement in a downward direction. This is said to enhance the ski’s stability in rough terrain.
These front suspension changes are easily as impressive as the rear. We found the front end doesn’t dance around nearly as much as it used to. You can put it on an aggressive sidehill with tracks under the snow, and when you cross those tracks, the front end doesn’t give you the negative feedback that Ski-Doo is so infamous for. Instead, it stays straight and true giving you more confidence in the line you have chosen.
On the trail, the front suspension and handling is substantially better. This sled feels more like an MXZ on the trail. It corners extremely flat and is very predictable. We think the new shocks with Kashima coating has helped this a bunch. Also, the new ski rubber and spindle are a plus here.
The running boards on the Expert package are extruded all the way forward. This provides much better traction when your feet are forward on the boards which is where I spend most of my time. It also promotes better snow evacuation in certain snow conditions. This is a small but significant change as keeping your footing is key to control.
Rider grip on the handlebars is significantly improved. They accomplished this by machining down the outside diameter of the bar where the grips attach by 2 mm. This allows a 2 mm smaller diameter grip to be used which promotes much better grip on the bar especially with a gloved hand. We have known for quite some time that smaller diameter grips provide better grip and control with less arm pump and fatigue while riding. These new bars/grips are a welcome change that I have missed since riding this sled in January. It is amazing what a small change to increase your grip on the bars does for your confidence while riding.
The handlebars have been lowered by using the 120 mm (4.7”) riser. This reduces the height by 45 mm (1 3/4”). Also, the grab handle height has been reduced by about 38 mm (1 1/2”) to keep it more out of the way. To protect the brake reservoir, kill switch and rider’s hands, new flexible handguards have been added. They are said to be nearly indestructible.
The Expert model comes outfitted with an adjustable limiter strap with the adjuster mounted in the side of the tunnel. This adjustable limiter strap has been offered for several years through the Ski-Doo accessory catalog, but this is the first production sled to contain it in stock form. With a simple pull and 180 degree turn of the adjuster, the limiter strap can be shortened or lengthened. This allows the sled to be quickly adapted to changes in terrain that you may encounter on you ride. To keep the nose down on those long, steep pulls, shorten the limiter strap. For a more playful ride in the creek bottoms and technical terrain, lengthen the limiter strap to allow the front end to come up with a snap of the throttle.
It also features a lower, shorter seat. This is the Forty7C seat designed by Carl Kuster and offered in the current accessory catalog. It is approximately 25.4 mm (1”) shorter in height and 38 mm (1 1/2”) shorter in length. When jumping back and forth from one running board to another, the shorter seat is more out of the way and thus takes less effort to lift your lower leg and foot to make the transition. It is smaller, but we found it adequate for a seated position.
Without a snow flap, following this sled down the trail is like following a snow blower. Keep your distance from it otherwise you will be eating its roost. We wondered how well this sled would cool with so much more snow coming out the back, and were told by engineers that engine cooling is not a problem. They recommend ice scratchers be deployed anytime on a trail, but that is pretty typical for us to do with any mountain sled these days. In our testing we found that cooling was not an issue in the conditions that we were riding in.
Overall, we love this sled. The changes that have been made to this model when combined together with one another are quite significant. It is very confidence inspiring allowing us to do aggressive maneuvers quicker with less momentum and effort. Ride quality, whether on the trail or in high mountain off trail conditions, is better than any other Ski-Doo Summit model. If you are considering purchasing a new Ski-Doo Summit and you are an aggressive rider who loves the tight, technical terrain, this is the sled for you. Available only on a Spring order, it is priced $600 more than a Summit X and is only available in a 3” lug track of 154” and 165” lengths. Personally, I plan to order one in the 165” length for my riding style and conditions.
By Jerry Mathews – SnowTech Mountain
Stay tuned for a follow up and more in-depth test report in SnowTech Magazine as we spend more time on the 2020 Ski-Doo Summit X Expert.