Snow Ghost In The Machine

Ever been on a snowmobile (or snowmachine, depending on your region)? I used to have these bros that were so much fun to snowboard with it was silly. As soon as they got enough scratch together to buy sleds, they rarely showed up on the hill anymore.

With the development of mountain-class sleds, manufacturers have opened snowmobile enthusiasts to a new realm of affordability and uncompromised backcountry performance. Features such as 140 inch long tracks, two inch paddles, adjustable ski stance, and straps on the handlebars for sidehilling have become stock. Many snowboarders have been drawn from the slopes by these dream machines.

The longer tracks and deeper paddles (or lugs) create greater grabbing power in deep snow. Innovative front and rear suspension systems give the sleds more stability and comfort in the adverse terrain. Altitude sensative mechanisms control the flow of fuel to the engines to compensate for air density at varying altitudes. Snowmobile manufacturers have created a new breed of sleds that make the backcountry more accesable than ever.

Arctic Cat Powder Special

The 2000 Powder Specials are primed to track the untrackable with extra-wide skis for flotation, 37-inch ski stance for improved sidehilling, and 136-inch Camoplast Challenger tracks with two inch lugs (on all but the Powder Special 500). To maximize comfort and control, the Powder Specials come with the FasTrack Long-Travel Rear Suspension System and Torque Sensing Link (TSL). The Powder Special 500 Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) and 600 EFI feature a batteryless EFI system for adjusting fuel/air mix and spark timing in varying altitudes. These machines are putting high-marks where before only birds could reach. Arctic Cat is putting out a 500 EFI, 600 EFI, 700, and a 999 cc Thundercat Mountain Cat in its powder-class sleds. The Powder Special 700’s MSRP is $7099. www.arctic-cat.com

Ski Doo Summit

The Ski-Doo Summit series offers the full complement of mountain-sled features, plus many of the performance characteristics of the MX Z line. As well as offering the mountain grab handle and abrasive running boards–both Ski-Doo firsts–the Summit sleds also have 136-inch tracks with two-inch Super-V lugs, rear high-pressure gas shock (HPG), and a digital encoded security system (DESS) to prevent trailhead lurkers from making away with such a fine piece of machinery. Ski-Doo’s Summit sleds come equipped with a Digital Performance System (DPS), which compensates for altitude and atmospheric changes from base to peak. Powered by the Rotax liquid-cooled engines, these machines are a hybrid of power and mountain performance. The Summit comes in a 600 and 700 model and the MSRP for the 700 is $7,199. www.ski-doo.com.

Yamaha Mountain Max

The Mountain Max is stepping it up this season with more features, lighter sleds, and stronger design. The Deep Snow Specials offer 141 inches of powder-shredding track, the longest in its class, with a new two inch lug pattern. Yamaha has brought a plethora of changes to the Mountain Max: a new tapered tunnel–the space between the track and chasis–to reduce drag in deep snow, redesigned easy-adjust rear suspension (ProAction Plus), and redesigned geometry of the torque arms and control rods. All these new features improve mobility in deep snow. Add the new rear bumper design, snow flap, advanced independent front suspension, and raised handlebars with mountain strap, and you’ve got a serious mountain rig. Yamaha offers the Mountain Max in 600 and 700 models, as well as a Phazer Mountain Lite model. The 700’s MSRP is $6,999. www.yamaha-motor.com

Polaris Rocky Mountain King (RMK)

Polaris has been making snowmobiles for 45 years. That’s a lot of time to tinker, and Polaris’ experience shows in the new models. This yyear, Polaris offers its exclusive adjustable-width ski stance, a feature that requires no extra parts. The 700 weighs in lighter than last season’s 670 model yet offers more power–an amazing transformation. The RMK also has a unique cooling system that acts as a running board gripper and de-icer. Now that’s innovative design. The new mountain skis are asymmetrically mounted on the spindle. The RMK reigns over the deep snow with the Indy Trail RMK, Indy 500 RMK, Indy 600 RMK, Indy 700 RMK, and an Indy 800 RMK. The MSRP for an 800 RMK is $7,899. www.polarisindustries.com.