2 times or 4 times? Ski-doo, Polaris, Arctic Cat, Yamaha? And the sizes of the lanes? Engine sizes? Turbos? Where do you start? Read our Expert View below.
Listen! My name is Evrett Nelson and I've been snowmobiling for as long as I can remember. For me, snowmobiling has always been an escape from reality, creating a deeper connection to the outdoors and creating memories with amazing people. Could not be better.
Over the years I've leaned into the hilly scene and that's where my heart is. However, today I'm going to share with you some tips that can help you decide which is the best snowmobile for you.
It doesn't matter if you're new to the sport, an ice fishing enthusiast, a backyard trail warrior, or you're serious about getting up and down the mountain, I can guarantee you one thing... There's a snowmobile out there for you!
My opinions may differ from others, but it should give you a good idea of where to start and ultimately how to decide.
The most important thing before leaving, remember 3 golden rules:
1. Always get proper training, learn the safety features of your machine and how to operate it safely.
2. Know and understand what safety equipment to take with you and, above all, how to use it correctly.
3. Understand the terrain you are going and always tell someone where you are going! Make a travel plan and make sure you give it to someone you can count on.
So where do we start? First, instead of going through each of the 8 or 9 different types of snowmobiles, including hybrids/crossovers, I'm going to break down all the classes into just 3 basic types.
What to choose: Sport Trail, Mountain or Touring?
You'll have to really think about what kind of riding you'll be doing right away and what kind of riding you COULD be doing in the future.
You might be wondering..."can I still go trail riding on my mountain sled?" clear! It just won't be top of the class. “Can I still go ice fishing with my sport sled?” clear! “Can I ride a horse down the mountain with my backwoods sleigh?” maybe not so fast...
I like to put it this way.
If you like ice fishing and horseback riding, jumping, etc... but there's a chance you might want to explore the mountains a bit, I would recommend asports track.
If you like travelling, ice fishing and want the comfort of a two or more seat and have little or no chance of cycling in the mountains I would recommend aturismomodel.
If you have a good chance of mountain biking but still want to go ice fishing and hiking, aMountainthe sled will do them all, but it might not be as comfortable.
That's another reason why I love sleds so much, because you really can do almost anything with them. They have the track and engine size to get you out of a traffic jam quickly, but you can always find a way to safely engage a skid and take the family ice fishing for the day.
Of course, the best way to maximize your experience and have a best-in-class ride for every occasion is to simply buy one of each type of snowmobile. Unfortunately… not all of us have that kind of cash on hand, so we're going to have to make it work.
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Two or four times?
I like to think about this decision remembering that two-strokes are light and nimble with plenty of power, but four-strokes are significantly heavier and have more torque.
On the hilly side of things, if you're going to be climbing big slides and straight pulls, a 4-stroke turbo might be your best bet due to its higher speed and trail torque. If you're going to be riding more in the trees and exploring the mountains, but want something that can still conquer the slopes, you'll probably want to stick with a two-stroke.
On the touring and trail side, if you're going to be pulling a big skateboard or hauling a second person with extra gear and weight, a four-stroke is probably your best bet. If you go ice fishing casually but still want to hit the trails and be sportier and more agile, you can choose a two-stroke.
Your best bet is to talk to your local dealer and ask them to help you find your perfect snowmobile! And if you can, take one for a test drive.
This brings me to the next decision...
Which brand should I choose?
I'm going to split this section into 3 big ones: Ski-doo, Polaris, and Arctic Cat. Each has its own versions and lineups of Sport Trail, Mountain and Touring and everything in between. But how to choose a brand?
I like to start by asking a few simple questions:
1. Which dealers are close to me so I don't have to travel long distances for service and parts?
2. Already have a good reputation with a dealer? Do my friends and family recommend a great dealership in town?
Sometimes for me it's all about the dealership. If they have great customer service and a great team always willing to help you I don't think you can make a wrong decision. But which brand is really the best option?
In my opinion, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Polaris has some of the lightest chassis you can find and is priced lower than every other brand. Even though the Skidoo is one of the more expensive ones, I've always liked the reliability and power. Arctic Cat is like Ski-doo in my books with reliability and power.
When it comes to features and plugins, the list goes on! You'll really have to research what you're looking for after narrowing down the model you want. Once you've found the model you're looking for, head over to the web and see what features you like best, or check with your local dealer, these guys are always happy to help.
Sometimes just figuring out what features and extras you're looking for can help you set a brand right away. For example, most Arctic Cat touring sleds come with Fox Shocks, while Ski-doos come with a slightly cheaper alternative.
Once you have an idea of which model you'd like, be it Sport Trail, Mountain or Touring... the best way to really find out is to head down to your local dealer and have a chat. Take a look at the features, accessories and get an idea if this is what you are looking for.
So go to the next dealership, talk a little more, ask your questions and, if you can, schedule a test drive!
However, there is no correct answer. I'm sure if you dig deep enough the choice will stare right back at you.
Choosing a sled can seem daunting, but have fun! Have fun with it and you'll never get lost. The people you'll meet along the way and the experiences you'll have will make it worth the trip to find the best snowmobile for you.
And hey, if you need some advice to help you decide, send me a message.an Instagram @evrettnelsonand I'll be happy to help!
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