As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. Last year’s Snow Shoot in West Yellowstone afforded us some of the best snow conditions in years. So this year, as the season progressed and the snow was slow in coming I was thinking we might be in for another poor riding conditions situation for this year’s Snow Shoot. So it was with considerably excitement that I watched the snows come the weeks leading up to March and as I drove through Island Park and in to West Yellowstone, like last year, steep snow banks and deep meadows greeted me.
One note before I jump in to this year’s report. I want to send a big thanks out to the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. They are a big part of putting on the Snow Shoot and do a terrific job. We always feel welcome and they make things run smoothly while we are in town. This year, I’m giving them and the OEMs extra kudos. With the way the snow has come this year, avalanche danger in the back country has been terrible. Conditions have been crazy unpredictable and we have seen a couple of avys in the Gallatin National Forest and other areas where we haven’t seen avys happen before. So upon arrival in West Yellowstone, first thing in the morning of Day 1, the Chamber and OEMs had us all go through an introductory avalanche class taught by one of the GNFAC guys. If you didn’t attend the class, you didn’t get to ride the mountain sleds… simple as that. I applaud them for this. One class doesn’t make you an expert, but it for sure helps with awareness and a large number of the people there riding are rarely in avy country so it was a good thing.
As you can imagine, this year’s snow conditions across the snow belt have not been ideal. I always wonder what sort of mood the OEMs will be in when that is the case, but there is nothing like new model year intros to boost everyone’s outlook. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot this year, after all we have had some pretty big things over the past couple of years. But as usual, the OEMs surprised me with some pretty cool things.
For 2013, Yamaha continues its march forward with great running sleds targeted at their loyal riders while gladly opening their arms to anyone else that feels like they want to join the Yamaha family. The Apex, Nytro, Phazer, Vector and Venture return for next year largely unchanged. It’s hard to argue with the success that these models have enjoyed and Yamaha gives us the continuing formula for great running and riding sleds. I still love the electronic power steering found on the Apex, Vector and Venture.
But don’t be fooled, the Yamaha lineup gets its fair share of upgrades and additions this year. The one that caught my eye first was the new FX Nytro XTX 1.75. The Yamaha guys took the Nytro with its terrific 4Stroke motor and built a great new crossover sled. The XTX gets the new 15 x 144 x 1.75 Camoplast Back Country track which is a terrific track for a crossover. It handles trails very well and does a terrific job off trail. The Yamaha engineers are driving the track with a new Single-piece extrovert driver which noticeably decreases track noise and vibration. Along with the rest of the standard Nytro components, a new Dual-Keel ski up front along with HPG lightweight aluminum shocks combine to make the XTX a very nice dual purpose sled. The XTX also gets the dual warmer controls, bar heaters on the left and thumb on the right. I will admit, I’m not a fan of this as it makes it pretty tough to adjust the thumb warmer while moving. But other Yamaha’s have had this same setup and its probably a bit simpler for some riders to have them split in to dual controls instead of the single control.
Also added to the lineup for next year is the RS Venture TF. It’s a sort of stretched GT, 15 x 151 x 1.25 Rip Saw track. It has all the nice things the RS Venture lineup has to offer but adds some specific items to offer better off groomed trail performance and ride. The TF has an articulating rear suspension to keep from getting stuff when backing up in soft snow. And that rear suspension is a stretched version of the ProComfort CK with 40mm HPG clicker. It also gets a big storage trunk, fully adjustable back rest, hitch and dual DC outlets… and of course Electric Power Steering.
The standard Venture line gets the new Venture MP which is a lighter weight multi-purpose (MP) sled. The MP rides on wide utility skis and a 16 x144 x 1.25 Rip Saw track. Giving it both good on trail performance but also good off trail, utility performance. It’s a very comfortable 2 up sled on the lower end of price that has great features. It has electronic push button reverse which I found to be a very nice, simple feature.
Finally, what some people might not think is a big deal… especially if they don’t have kids, is Yamaha’s new SRX 120. If you are like me, with kids at home that always want to go riding, and you are a Yamaha rider you have been wanting a youth model for quite some time. I’ve even seen guys buy one of the other OEM’s 120s and paint them to match their Yamahas. Well no more. For 2013 the SRX 120 is here for your younger riders. Featuring a 123cc Yamaha engine, tether, governed top speed at 8 mph, working lights and styling to match dad’s big sled, I am super pleased to see this available.
The Retro craze has hit the snowmobile world full on over the past couple of years. And Polaris has taken it up a couple of notches by bring back the iconic Indy brand for this year. The tech presentation in the Polaris trailer started off with a video they put together about the Indy. For me, who has been riding for longer than I sometimes care to admit, seeing the footage of Indys from the 80s and 90s was really fun. And then Polaris rolled out the new Indy.
Let’s be perfectly clear… about the only things that the 2013 Indys have in common with the old Indys are graphics schemes, great performance for their time, and of course the name. The 2013 Indy lineup consists of the 600 Indy and 600 Indy SP. The Indy is built around the Pro-Ride chassis with the “Rush” front suspension and a coupled rear suspension. Power is delivered from the wonderful 600 Cleanfire 2 injector motor. Maybe its just being back on an “Indy” but these sleds are dang fun to ride. The standard Indy is equipped with RydeFX MPV shocks and rides on a .91” Shockwave track. The SP gets Fox IFP shocks and a 1” HackSaw track. Those 2 upgrades actually do make a difference in how the SP handles, but I’m not prepared to say it is significantly different. I loved riding both sleds and they both put a smile on my face.
The Rush lineup for 2013 offers an option for just about anyone. From the standard 600 and 800 Rush to the Pro-R, pick your weapon and come out fighting. Upgrades for this year include the new Pro-Steer ski, which several of the Polaris sleds get . It’s a nicely improved ski with a reshaped keel design and shorter skag which combine to offer less steering effort. Its been stiffened and reshaped to offer good performance in a variety of conditions. The Pro-Ride Adventure seat gets spread over more models for next year too and I like that. It’s a terrifically comfortable seat for those long days in the saddle. And the Rush sleds get the new one-piece bar (hooks are bent in to the bar) and new right hand controls which separate the kill switch from the throttle block allowing the rider to tailor where she would like the controls to be positioned. I’m not a fan of the one piece bar for one reason, I like my bar ends pointed in a certain direction and the one piece bar doesn’t allow me to do that. Picky, I know. Polaris spreads the new ski, bars and controls across to the Switchback lineup as well.
417lbs. Honestly, that’s all I really need to say. 417lbs. An 800 class mountain sled that weighs 417lbs. If you had said that to me 5 years ago I would have asked to see what you were smoking in your pipe. But for 2013 the mountain team at Polaris shaved another 14lbs off the lightest mountain sled available. It now comes in somewhere around 45lbs lighter than its closest competition. And yes, you feel that lighter weight. To get there, Polaris eliminated the regular chain and gear chaincase and replaced it with a new QuickDrive system. It’s a gear and belt setup that is lighter and has less rotating mass.
They also have expanded their use of adhesive bonding and carbon fiber to shave off the weight. What you end up with is a crazy stiff chassis that is incredibly light. Other changes are a shorter seat… as in front to rear, not up and down. And that seat is wider making it comfortable to sit on and also easy to get back and forth across. And if you can get past the 417lbs you’ll also see an absolutely wonderful set of running boards. The PowderTrac boards are the best on the market. They are 53% open, have built in stiffeners and clean out with simply a brush of the foot. Oh, did I mention it only weighs 417lbs.
Ok, I’m going to jump right in to the Summit because I just jumped out of the RMK. If you have been reading my articles over the past few years you know that I have not been a fan of the Ski-Doo Summits in either the Rev or XP platforms. I’ve spent a lot of time on them and everyone always tells me I just need to learn to ride them and I haven’t been able to. So when I walked in to the Ski-Doo trailer and got my first good look at the new Rev-XM I was skeptical. I’ve been told before that “its better” when looking at a new Ski-Doo. The new XM gets some interesting changes that peaked my interest. It has the new seat with actual storage (Thank You Ski-Doo for putting storage on a mountain sled). But in the area of ride and handling it got some very different changes.
The front end geometry in the spindles has been changed as well as the Pilot DS 2 ski has some changes in how it mounts and how long it is. The XM gets new body work and if you compare it to last year’s Summit you will notice that the area behind and above the front suspension is more rounded and “tucked in”. And the rear end is way different with the new tMotion rear suspension, which allows for a 2 degree pivot each way as well as the 2.5” PowderMax II FlexEdge track.
Now I’m not going to spill the whole thing right now, you’ll have to come back and read my full report on the Summit, but I will tell you that the new XM flat works. I LOVED riding it. Yes, I said ‘LOVED’ and mean it. It’s the first Summit in years that I could ride. Literally in a matter of a few minutes I was comfortable on it. It plants on a sidehill and holds it without that funky flop down that the previous Summits had. And the nemesis of all Summits in the past, the down hill off camber turn is executed with relative ease. Oh and the running boards on the XM are just about as good as the RMKs are for ease of cleanout and comfort. I have to agree, the Summit XM is the best Ski-Doo Summit ever built.
Now not all the goodness from Ski-Doo is reserved for the mountain riders. The new Rev-XS platform is the next generation of chassis for the flatlanders. The Rev-XS gets a new seat and body work that really is more than just cosmetics. It allows the rider to move forward easier and to the side when cornering. The combination of the seat, tank and body work actually gives the rider cockpit a roomier feel and allows the rider to move around and get positioned where she is most comfortable.
The XS has the rMotion suspension and has the optional Quick Adjust System. I love that system, it allows you to tweak the preload and compression in about 1.7 seconds from the side of the rear tunnel. I’ve ridden it on several different models over many days and love having that adjustability. No more do I “endure” a section of trail or terrain until it changes… I just simply change the suspension. The rMotion is a good suspension, but if its in your budget, opt for the Quick Adjust System.
The Renegade lineup also gets the rMotion suspension. And the 1200 4stroke gets a new clutch this year which smooths out engagement and improves durability.
Last year was a big year for our friends in Thief River Falls. They rolled out the new Pro chassis across the lineup. Cat enthusiasts and new comers alike were treated to a new chassis top to bottom. For 2013, Arctic Cat keeps adding to the mix.
At the forefront for this year is the addition of the new RR models to the lineup. The SnoPro RR comes wrapped around the super strong 800 2-stroke as well as the 1100 Turbo. If you are familiar with the sport bike world you will know that RR stands for Race Ready. That is an appropriate way of looking at the SnoPro RRs. They are just about as close to a race sled as you can get without actually buying the race sled. Up front the RRs get Fox Float X EVOL shocks, same as the Cross Country race sled. The rear suspension is the Cross Country race sled rear suspension with clicker adjust compression and rebound. I can’t emphasize this enough, the RR is a race ready sled. This means its going to ride like a race sled.
During the tech discussion the Arctic Cat engineers gave us a basic soft/firm/stiff rating of the available suspensions. The LXR models are classified as ‘soft’ which give smooth ride over the 6”-12” stutter bumps. Next up is the standard Sno Pro suspension as ‘firm’ that is 10” stutters to 24” moguls. And finally the RR which is called ‘stiff’ and is calibrated to the 24+” moguls and the “G” bumps. But as we have come to expect from Cat, their suspensions are wonderfully adjustable so you can stiffen or soften them to your needs. But the default factor calibration can be thought of as above.
As with all the OEMs, Cat is improving and expanding the crossover models as well. The CrossTour and CrossTour 2-up expand this segment. The XF CrossTour has all the available accessories like back rest, storage bag and rack. The CrossTour is a sportier version of cross over sled aimed at the flatland, cross country rider. For the rider more geared towards off trail than on trail the XF High Country takes the best qualities from the ProClimb and brings them to a cross over sled.
For the ProClimb riders, some small changes that make a big difference come. For 2013 the mountain sled gets a narrowed ski stance, to 38” and get a change to the steering arms with a new mounting hole position which decreases turning radius. On the surface, seems like small changes, but the affect on the hill and in the deep snow is that the mountain ProClimb becomes quite a bit more responsive to rider input. The ProClimb also gets a new 2.6” track, the tallest lug available on any OEM. In conjunction with that track, the rear suspension front arm moves down ¾” and the rear arm is moved to the lower hole. Those changes with the 38” ski stance is quite a big improvement in rolling over to a side hill from the 2012 model. And the new 2.6” track goes through the powder even better than last year’s.
Arctic Cat also made several changes to the chassis to improve comfort, riding and durability. The 4-strokes get a changed reverse mechanism. The mountain 4-stroke gets vertical steering. Changes to clutching, gearing and a new belt all combine to show Arctic Cat’s commitment to improvement.
Yes, I thought with the snow conditions generally this year that we wouldn’t be seeing a lot of changes from the OEMs. I was wrong. The design, engineering, marketing and sales teams at all 4 OEMs are hitting on all cylinders these days, giving us what I would argue are the best snowmobiles we have ever seen. I can’t wait to get more seat time on these new sleds this spring and in to next year.