How the 2020 Ski-Doo Summit X Expert Compares to the Other Summit Models
By Jerry Mathews – SnowTech Mountain
You’ve decided to purchase a new Ski-Doo mountain sled. Now you have to figure out which one is for you. With many models to choose from, this decision can be daunting. Why does Ski-Doo offer so many different models? Are they all really that much different? With all the hype on the new Summit X Expert, do we really need anything else?
We have been riding the Summit X Expert since January. All told, we have now logged nearly 500 hard mountain miles on several different models of this sled. We have been in most conditions and have a pretty good feel for it.
For our riding style and conditions (Idaho-Wyoming-Montana border zone) we absolutely love the Summit X Expert. But, is it the perfect Summit model for everyone? We have to be honest and say no, but Ski-Doo never intended this sled to be perfect for everyone. That’s why they still offer their other models. The Expert, as the name implies, fits the experienced rider looking to be aggressive in steep, technical terrain in the deepest snow possible. The more you push it, the better it excels. It provides excellent ride quality on those rough mountain trails that we use to access the backcountry areas we so enjoy. It forces you to ride in the “Attack” position and the harder you ride it, the better it works.
The short tunnel is a blessing and a curse. We love that the tunnel and tail flap is out of the way and we never feel it when we are sidehilling in the tight trees, climbing and otherwise playing around. This sled responds extremely quick to our inputs and takes less energy for us to ride. But, if you stand it up over-vertical, since there is no tail flap and tunnel to catch it and set the front end back down, you better be ready to loop out (re-entry) or it may come all the way over on you. This hasn’t bit us yet as we have just changed our riding style a bit. We actually like how easy it does a re-entry, but some may not like the loss of stability when you lift the front end and it stands up over vertical. This issue most often is found on long, steep climbs or in heavier, wetter snow conditions where traction is substantial. In mid-season blower powder, it is not as much of an issue. To counter this, you can just shorten the limiter strap with the quick adjuster located on the side of the tunnel. This keeps the nose down on those long steep climbs. Also, since it is only offered with a 3” lug track, it is positioned toward the rider who is seeking out that deep, dry powder as it works best there.
Some riders may question if the cooling system is adequate with the short tunnel and tail flap. We have been watching our temperature on each ride, and so far, it has not been an issue at all. We do recommend watching your temperature whenever you are on the trail or in limited snow conditions. For most elite mountain riders who end up purchasing this sled, this will not be an issue at all as we watch our water temperature and dip into the snow off trail or dig a hole with our track to cool it off. Ice scratchers down on the trail are a must on this model. If you put a novice on this sled that rides the trail slow, rolling across every bump and never dipping into off trail loose snow, overheating will most likely be an issue at times, especially when the trails are hard. These riders would be better served with a model that houses a full-length tunnel and snow flap so that the flap will redirect the limited snow and ice spray back up into the tunnel and onto the coolers.
When riding this sled, you have to consider the riders behind you. This sled is like a snowblower throwing a huge roost of ice chunks and snow dust behind it. This requires your buddies to increase their following distance to stay out of your roost. Most will look at this as not being an issue as they are the ones riding this sled. Where it becomes an issue is when you want to take a less aggressive family ride or a ride with friends that may be new to snowmobiling. In this case, you will be forced to be the leader and they will not be able to follow your lines as closely and learn from watching your body inputs as easily. Ski-Doo has an accessory snow flap extension that is supposed to mount to the short snow flap this sled is equipped with via their LINQ mounting system. We have not seen or been able to work with this snow flap extension yet, but it may eliminate this issue and help with cooling as well.
We absolutely love the smaller diameter handlebar grips. They are 2 millimeters smaller in diameter allowing a better, more relaxed grip on the bar. My hands are fairly large and I wear XXL gloves. We believe that once they have experienced it, the vast majority of snowmobilers will agree that this smaller diameter grip provides an improved grip for their gloved hand. Just for reference, we measured the current model Polaris and the Arctic Cat grips, and found that the new Ski-Doo grip is only slightly smaller in diameter to those (Arctic Cat 26.9 mm, 1.060”, Polaris 27.2 mm, 1.070”, Ski-Doo Expert 26.3 mm, 1.035”). All three manufacturer grips now feel somewhat close to the same diameter (Ski-Doo Expert feeling slightly smaller), whereas the previous Ski-Doo grip felt noticeably larger in diameter. It is important to note that the Summit X Expert model is the only model that receives these new grips. All other Summit models get the larger diameter grips.
The handguards that came stock on the Expert have been very durable. Ski-Doo said they would be nearly indestructible and we would have to agree. They provide good protection for your hands from willows and tree limbs as well as the cold. They also protect the kill switch from the inadvertent slap of a stick.
The new shorter riser block forces us to ride in the “Attack” position. I am 6’ tall and it is the perfect height for me. I admit that taller riders or riders with shorter arms may want a taller riser, but I would recommend riding the sled several times before changing it. Even our taller riders like this riser when riding aggressive in the mountains. They admit that on the trail it makes them hunch over a bit from what they are used to, but the general consensus is they would leave it as it forces the “Attack” riding position.
The shorter grab handle is also a nice touch. It is still tall enough to allow you to grab it easily even with a gloved hand, but small enough to be more out of the way. And finally, it is still tall enough to hang your helmet on, goggles pointed down, protected from the storm that you may be in when you are taking a break.
The Summit X Expert gets the Forty7C seat inspired by Carl Kuster which is shorter both in height (38 mm, 1 1/2”) and in length (25.4 mm, 1”). This seat allows you to swing your leg over it easier when transitioning from side to side. It still is very comfortable when seated, but is slightly colder to ride on those extremely cold days.
The suspension offers some of the very best ride quality of any mountain suspension we have ever been on. It is calibrated a bit stiffer than the Summit SP or Summit X. On the front end, this stiffer calibration requires a bit more effort to initiate a sidehill than either of those models. This has not been an issue for us at all, but riders just learning to sidehill or perfecting their inputs on one side or another will find the Summit SP or Summit X easier to initiate into a sidehill. Also, riders who tend to run slower down the trail may like the softer suspension calibration of the Summit SP or Summit X. We typically like to charge down the rough trail, and the Summit X Expert suspension has been calibrated well to do this. The harder you ride it, the better the suspension works. The rear rail shock is adjustable like the one on the Summit Freeride and this allows you adjustability for riding style and rider weight.
When you put the Ski-Doo Expert in a super technical sidehill or tree line, it is quite a bit more predictable with less tendency to wash out the track than other Summit Models. We feel this is due to the front-end changes (ski rubber, ski and spindle) which keep the ski from pointing tip up when you sidehill as well as not having the tunnel or tail flap dragging. It is important to note that the 2020 Summit Freeride gets these front-end changes (ski rubber, ski and spindle) as well.
The adjustable limiter strap that the Expert comes equipped with aids in sidehill stability as well. In the “Short” limiter strap position it places more weight on the skis which keeps the front end pointed where it is headed. It is a bit less playful in this position, but it is more predictable making it easier to navigate those sick lines through tight, technical sidehills and up-hills. The “Long” limiter strap position is preferred for playing in the creek bottoms and pillows where precision is not as much a necessity. The sled has less ski pressure and more front-end lift in the “Long” limiter strap position. The adjustable limiter strap mechanism is located on the left side of the tunnel and only takes seconds to adjust. It only comes stock on the Summit X Expert model, but it can be added to any other Summit G4 model as an accessory once you receive your sled. If you are an experienced rider seeking the steep, deep, off camber terrain, the Summit X Expert is a good fit for you. But if you are not as experienced, or if you ride often with the family or other not as experienced riders, or ride mostly in areas with wetter, heavier snow conditions where a 2.5” lug track works best, you may want to consider a Summit SP or Summit X. Or if you want the ultimate shock package that Ski-Doo offers, then the Summit Freeride may be a wise choice. Each of these models are excellent performers, and each fits a specific group of customers. Just because the Summit X Expert is getting all of the hype and attention right now, don’t count out one of these other models if the features of that model suit you best. The Summit X Expert is not the sled for everyone, but our mountain test crew all agree that for our conditions and riding style, it is the best Ski-Doo for us.