The new 840cc Patriot engine made the 2019 Polaris 850 SKS 146 even more fun than it’s already fantastic little brother. Don’t sleep on this mountain-leaning crossover.
It was so good last year, we tagged the 2018 Polaris 800 Liberty-powered Snow Check Select SKS 146 as our Deep Powder Crossover Snowmobile of the Year. We liked it so much we had to have one for ourselves. Through the 2018 mountain snowmobile season, we rode the paint right off it.
For this 2019 model year, Polaris offers this fine deep-powder crossover with its new Patriot 850 engine. Scrumptious. The Snow Check Select 2019 Polaris 850 SKS is more fun than last year’s model, and we never believed that would happen, given what we wrote in our long-term evaluation report on the 2018 SKS: “…there’s no such thing as too much fun.” The 850 SKS 146 just makes having too much fun, a fun thing to do.”
For you 800 Liberty fans, you can pinch the throttle on an 800 SKS 146 for model year 2019, as this Liberty-powered model remains available. For you data hounds, the difference between the 800 SKS 146 and the 850 SKS 146 is 40 more high-tech cubic centimeters, more horsepower and $700.00 USD.
Polaris targets the smartly dressed Snow Check Select SKS 146 850 as the crossover snowmobile from its tool drawer for the rider who wants to whack some powder as much (or more) as they want to burn some ditch. The 2019 Polaris 850 SKS 146 spins Polaris’ Series 5.2 track, which has paddles that are 2.25 inches tall; the track has just enough float and bite to play in the fluff and zoom across the whoops. The Series 5.2 track is, in simple terms, the Series 5 2.6-inch paddle molded with 2.25-inch tall paddles. The Series 5.2 has optimal lug spacing for light and deep snow conditions, while its stiff outer lugs help keep the SKS mostly locked down on icy trails.
As mentioned earlier, the Polaris 850 SKS 146 is powered with the 840cc (actual displacement) Cleanfire H.O. engine. The SKS is a chaincase-driven vehicle, no belt drive here. Estimated dry weight for the SKS 146 is 460 pounds, depending on shock package and other add-on options.
The SKS’ crossover jackshaft, the shaft receiving input from the driven clutch and which transfers the force to the chaincase, sits in the tunnel (which Polaris calls the front close off). The 146 SKS’ center-to-center distance between the drive and driven clutches is 10 and 5/8 inches, whereas, the center-to-center distance between the drive and driven clutches for the Pro-RMK is 11 and 1.2 inches. What does all this mean? With the lower mounted jackshaft and cinched in center-to-center distance, the SKS operator sits low and close to the motor to substantiate Polaris’ driver-forward position. This helps the SKS 146 remain buttoned-down on a trail as a crossover snowmobile.
Under tunnel and between the track is the IGX – Ideal Geometry Xover – rear suspension, which does as Polaris says, delivering “a smooth ride and outstanding handling on all terrain and in all snow depths and conditions.” With its two Walker Evans compression adjustable piggyback shocks, the IGX rear skid is positive – kickback is not existent; the IGX has an optimized geometry to control pitch. Lastly, the shock’s settings give the operator latitude to dial in the load resistance and reaction timing they want. The IGX’s rearmost rail beam is tipped up for trail performance, making the 146 act like a 136.
At the nose is the AXYS RMK adjustable front suspension with a ski stance that can be set to 39, 40 or 41 inches. We prefer the narrowest setting. The ski on the Polaris 850 SKS 146 is the RMK Gripper – a powder ski – and its A-arms are one-piece forged aluminum arms that are tough and light. The 2019 146 SKS 850 did not receive Polaris’ new React Front Suspension, which is exclusive for the Spring-buy Pro-RMK.
The front suspension relies on the same Walker Evans shock as the IGX rear suspension. We like these shocks and on our 2018 800 SKS 146, we had to soften its dampening for whoops and the sweet powder we played in. Once the shocks were set to “Soft,” we played “Hard.”
The Polaris 850 SKS 146 has its own unique runningboards dubbed PowderTrac Hybrid Running Boards. These foot platforms are designed or maximum snow clean-out (for powder), strength (for jumps and ditch banging), and width (also for snocross style riding).
The seat is Polaris’ AXYS Performance Seat with integrated underseat storage. This is a “to-die-for” seat with storage, good length to stretch out on, and delivers comfort for the buns; from personal experience.
With its wide runningboards, long seat and horizontal – laydown – steering, the SKS 146 is trail and crossover-designed more than RMK deep-powder designed, but it is all AXYS.
The Rocky Mountain customer may choose the SKS 146 because age limits mobility. But if needed, the SKS is primed to go steep-and-deep, within SKS 146 limits of course. Sr. Test Rider, Kevin Allred reports on this later in the story.
For you Rocky Mountain riders, the 2019 Polaris 850 SKS 146 is not a shorter AXYS Pro-SKS 155. Basically, the Pro-SKS 155 is a Pro-RMK 155 with a chaincase and idler wheels on the rear skid (no ice-scratchers). The AXYS 850 SKS 146 is more closely-related to the AXYS Switchback Assault 144 than it is to the Pro-SKS 155.
The 2019 AXYS 850 Switchback Assault 144 is a spot-on a 50/50 crossover, whereas in our opinion, the 850 AXYS SKS 146 is a 65/35 crossover – 65% powder, 35% trail. One of our guest-test riders, Brent Burton, who joined us to test ride the 2019 snowmobiles, is a long track junkie. He said, “The SKS 146 is 20 inches too short for me.” We get it, Brent, you are a mountain slayer and tracks must be 160-something.
This doesn’t mean mountain riders would not have fun on a SKS 146, they most certainly could (we do). This too does not mean the SKS 146 and other deep-powder crossover snowmobiles have no purpose, these do; it is merely a fact, long trackers like their long tracks for deep, bottomless pow pow.
Now, a flat lander may choose the Polaris 850 SKS 146 as it would meet their needs for trail riding, with one long trip per year to the Rockies. The SKS 146 will behave nicely on the trail with the longer suspension smoothing out the bumpy chatter.
Sr. Test Rider Kevin Allred on the 850 SKS 146
In the world of evaluating mountain snowmobiles, our bread and butter for us in the mountain program, are the three-inch long track snowmobiles (case-and-point, Brent Burton above).
The 2019 SKS 146 with Polaris’ new 850 Patriot motor, is not a miserly snowmobile. With its shorter track and shorter lugs, the 850 Patriot is unleashed to spin its track with great speed; it is not a bad hillclimber in the correct conditions. However, in the epic deep snow that fell on the mountains near West Yellowstone, Mont., late February early March 2018, we tapped out the 850 SKS 146; it struggled to climb mountainsides that were covered in fluffy waist deep powder; we pushed it way outside its operating envelope. There is a tradeoff between speed and the flotation of a longer track. Yes, the 850 SKS is a crossover with limitations in the super-deep snow, but I still had a blast on this snowmobile.
With the Polaris 850 SKS 146, I’ve come to understand that by keeping vehicle and track speed high, the 146er will almost traverse where long track snowmobiles motor to. The 850 SKS 146 is a darling snowmobile, just know that it is not a Pro-RMK, but for its purpose as a deep powder crossover snowmobile, I’d have one in a heartbeat.
Trail-style laydown steering posts can crimp my A-game a bit, but the 850 SKS 146 does not; I enjoy the way the 850 SKS can light up a tight turn. The 146 SKS’ handling and power are incredible; its Walker Evans shock package attributes to much of this.