As the 2013 snowmobile season begins to wind down, the 2014 snowmobile season begins. With the seasonal nature of our sport, the industry capitalizes on the momentum from one season to carry it into the next season. Luckily for all of us, snowfall has been heavy and furious through the middle of the winter, with many areas getting thick snow cover and good riding that exceeds the past several winters. With the coming of March also comes the release of information on all of the new models for next winter, and by the looks of it 2014 is going to be one of the best in years.
These are truly exciting times to be a snowmobiler. Technology continues to improve our riding experience and the machines themselves. The snowmobiler has never before had such a wide choice of engine technologies, model offerings, color options and personalized features. From two-strokes to four strokes, from short tracks to long tracks, and a growing number of sleds in-between.
We’re seeing the mountain sled market start to emerge as being the largest in the industry, with the more consistent snow from year to year being the logical reason for this trend. Polaris leads this segment with their popular RMK series, and Ski-Doo made huge gains this past season with their new Summit XM models. Crossover sleds, the do-all go-anywhere machines that we have been promoting for so long, continue to grow in popularity as riders confirm their versatility and embrace the benefits they provide. Maybe the biggest surprise is the decline in popularity of traditional “high-performance” sleds of the short track length. Many of these riders are transitioning to the Crossover sleds, some are going West to the mountains, others are seeing the added value in the lower cost trail sleds. This is yet another area Polaris is growing with their expansion of their popular Indy series with several new models for 2014.
For Yamaha and Arctic Cat riders there is extreme excitement in the “mutual supply agreement” between the two companies where Yamaha will supply engines to Arctic Cat and Arctic Cat will supply their chassis to Yamaha, actually building a number of Yamaha-powered models for Yamaha at their Minnesota manufacturing facility. Perhaps just as exciting is the news that Arctic Cat will be building their own DSI 600cc two-stroke engine in their own engine manufacturing facility in St. Cloud, Minnesota (just 70 miles down the road from us). Arctic Cat now joins Polaris in being able to build their own two-stroke engines right here in the Minnesota-Wisconsin area surrounding Minneapolis/St. Paul, putting the area on the map for snowmobile technology.
If you are a Yamaha rider, how can you not be excited about the news of being able to go to your Yamaha dealer and buy a new RS Viper model! The ride and handling of an Arctic Cat chassis, with the engine and clutching of a Yamaha Nytro? All with the Yamaha warranty and support network. We have all been hoping and asking for a new Nytro, but did you in your wildest dreams see this one coming! No way.
Ski-Doo continues to grow their market share in all segments, and they have increased their overall market share for an even bigger piece of the pie. For 2014 they continue to expand their new platforms across their model lines, and bring us the next in the family of ACE four-stroke engines, the new ACE 900 with intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) technology. Similar to what BRP has been using on their popular Sea-Doo watercraft, the performance characteristics of the sled can be electronically controlled or varied through one of many methods, greatly adding to the versatility of the ACE 900 models. Ski-Doo even has a new Silent Drive system to further reduce the noise from the track and drive system of select models, further enhancing the riding experience. They are doing everything they can to make the snowmobiling experience “easy” for even more people.
Yes, these are exciting times to be a snowmobiler. So many sleds to choose from. So many options to consider. So much new technology. Machines that are more reliable, more comfortable, quieter, and in many cases less expensive. Some of the new sleds are “spring-only” offerings, while many are going to be available this fall in dealer’s showrooms. Study wisely, choose carefully, and enjoy the ride. You gotta’ love it!
From the Spring 2013 issue of SnowTech / published in March of 2013