All you have to do is go to one of the big time snowmobile shows in the fall and just stand there and listen to people. It is some of the best entertainment there could possibly be. We have a crazy bunch of people who not only paid good money to get in the door (qualifier) but they like to completely razz and embarrass the others they came to the show with.
It’s like this. A group of guys comes up to a manufacturer’s display. One or two of them ride that brand, the others do not. You can just about image the harassment that starts, continues, and keeps going. The brand-loyalists defend their purchase decision, the guys riding other brands of sleds hammer away at how stupid they are for buying that brand of sled, all in good fun but very aggressive in nature, and for the casual observer you might think that fists were about to start flying. Then they slap each other on the back, have a good laugh and walk away.
All I have to say is damn good thing we are all this way. Snowmobilers are a very passionate user group, and they have traditionally been very brand loyal. Once you buy into a certain brand, you tend to buy a whole bunch of accessories, clothing, tools, spare parts, so switching brands isn’t as simply as switching sleds. You have to get rid of all the rest of the stuff, and replace all of it with new stuff. It’s far bigger than just switching sleds.
Being so passionate about the sport we love helps keep us all engaged, even if we don’t have stellar riding conditions right outside our own door. Example, Minnesota. Typically, or traditionally, we will have a decent winter that lets us start riding in early December and keep going into March. Usually. The past two winters, well, they have been challenging. I think we have ridden in Minnesota maybe three or four days the past two years out of our shop in central Minnesota. The rest of the time has been load them up on the trailer and take them to the snow.
We’ve been doing this for so long that it really doesn’t faze us that much. Some years are better than others, and there really isn’t anything one can do about it. You just go with it. The key here, you really can’t count on much of anything to be a sure deal. You have to be flexible, you have to be able to improvise and adapt. Follow the snow, go there and ride.
For this stark reality alone, over the years we have typically wanted to have sleds set-up and calibrated for both low elevation and high elevation. Having to swap a trailer load of sleds back and forth gets to be old after a while. We did that for a number of years, and just plain got tired of the constant gearing and clutching, and further back, jetting changes.
And as we all know, when you are riding in the deeper snows out west you really do want a longer track, ideally one with taller lugs, so you can get around and not be getting stuck, or not being able to keep up. You know the joker that goes out west with a sled that has a 1.25” track on it, he might have done the gearing and clutching but the track just doesn’t move enough snow to get him where the rest of you are going. Bummer.
Our own research and reader surveys have shown us over the years how a number of riders would actually own two sleds, that way they would have a good one for back home and a good one for going west. But, as the cost of sleds started to get crazy out of control, they couldn’t afford that foolishness any longer so they opted for one or the other. And in most cases, it was the short track trail sled that they sold, keeping their mountain sled. Because, as we all know, once you ride in the mountains it pretty much ruins you for doing any trail riding, at least for the rest of that winter, until you forget how awesome it was.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was actually a sled that you could not have to worry about changing gearing, clutching, jetting? One that you could ride on groomed trails at low elevation, one that you could ride in the deeper snow off-trail out at higher elevations? Of course it would be nice. The key here is how our CVT clutching systems on snowmobiles are power-dependent, and as the elevation increases the air pressure decreases, as does the power, requiring calibration changes. Unless, that is, your sled is fitted with a turbo.
Turbocharged snowmobiles have been around for quite a while now, going all the way back to the first Arctic Cat T660 sleds, followed by the Polaris turbocharged 750 and then the Arctic Cat-Suzuki 1100 turbo models. And now, for 2017, we are entering a new era of turbocharged snowmobiles with the introduction of the Yamaha Sidewinder models and Arctic Cat 9000-Series sleds, the likes of the Thundercat, King Cat, and XF 9000 High Country. The Thundercat might suck in the mountains, and the King Cat might suck on a groomed trail at low elevation, but what about the XF High Country? In the Yamaha line, what about the Sidewinder X-TX and B-TX models? They all walk the fine line of being a pseudo-deep snow sled with almost 2” lug heights, giving them decent capability both on-trail and off-trail. We said decent. Acceptable. Not as good as a full-on mountain sled out west, not as good as a full-on trail sled in the east, but able to work acceptably well anywhere, with ZERO changes. Load and go. You are ready.
It depends on where you live. East of Minnesota riders don’t head out west as often; they buy trail sleds.
West of Minnesota riders don’t head east to ride very often; they buy mountain sleds. But right here in the middle, we see it go both ways. We can get to western riding areas in a day. We can get to Lake Effect riding areas in even less time. We swing both ways. A turbocharged sled like a Yamaha Sidewinder X-TX or B-TX, or the Arctic Cat XF 9000 High Country with a 1.75” Backcountry track is quite tempting. OK, I know what some of you are thinking right now, what about the weight. It’s a turbo. What about the cost. It’s expensive. True, and true. But, it still is quite tempting. Being able to have a single sled sitting in the garage, ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, I like that. And, by the looks of the interest in these models, we just might be onto something.