Polaris started it, this “adventure snowmobile” thing. We give Polaris the credit because it actually created and named an upmarket “Adventure” version of its popular Switchback series. So, what defines an adventure sled? Polaris defines it as “being for on and off trail riders that demand the ultimate in versatility with a sled that can do it all.”

Ski-Doo offers its own version of adventure sled packaging with a specialized version of its crossover Renegade. The Renegade Enduro drew its inspiration from adventure motorcycles and Ski-Doo suggests “…the Renegade Enduro can tackle all-day blasts on challenging trails and shortcuts through meadows or single track.”

Then, of course, not to be outdone in this market niche, Arctic Cat offers two of its own adventure snowmobile modles; CrossTour and Cross Country. There are corresponding Yamaha versions built around the Cat architecture – the S-TX and longer tracked B-TX.

Accepting that these are adventure series models, what makes them so? Best we can figure is that they all started with some form of pre-existing crossover sled platform to which was added more specialized pieces to make them either more off-trail or on-trail compliant. The track length started out at 137 inches but now can be as long as 153 inches in overall circumference. Seemingly a good compromise settles in between 141 to 146 inches and, hopefully, with a tilted rail to emulate a shorter track’s on-trail performance for cornering, but a longer track’s off-trail length for flotation.

Polaris expanded its Adventure designation from the Switchback down to a 550 Indy Adventure model with 144-inch track length and price tag under US$9,000 versus the US$14,999 for the 800 Switchback Adventure with a 137-inch Cobra track, 800c Cleanfire twin, QS3 shock package and lots more. Topping off the Polaris Adventure line is the similarly priced 2018 800 Titan Adventure 155 with a 20-inch wide track. That’s a lot of “adventuring.”

Polaris Swithback Adventure Dash

Base pieces added to the Switchback to make up the Adventure included Polaris’ unique Lock & Ride saddlebags and rack plus the interactive digital display with full-color LCD, Bluetooth functions and GPS capability.

Of the Polaris series, the original Switchback-based version works best for most riders. As you’ll note, Polaris Adventure models come equipped with two-up capability, making these sleds de facto touring models without the stigma of a “touring” designation, which is akin to a minivan designation in the world of snowmobiling. Of course, once you remove the two-up seating components, the Switchback Adventure settles in as a rather plush, but quite satisfactory crossover sled.

Ski-Doo bypassed this compromise with its Renegade Enduro, which comes on a singular track length of 137 inches, single passenger accountability and features a focus aimed at comfortability. A unique crossover, the Enduro for 2018 settles in as a trail performance sled for serious high mile riders. Stylishly fitted with either red and black or black-only graphics packaging, the current Enduro delivers high-end performance with uniquely Ski-Doo touches like the Pilot TS adjustable skis with “dial-in” ski runner, an Air Ride version of the proven rMotion rear suspension and RAS2 front suspension. The Enduro can be set for plush or stiff settings as you ride. The downside to the new Enduro is that because the Air Ride setup doesn’t yet fit the Gen4 platform, the Enduro is only available with the proven, but older REV XS chassis, meaning no 850 E-TEC option for you!

Ski-Doo Enduro Side Action

Stylish and nuanced to comfort, Ski-Doo’s Enduro offers plush rMotion ride with air-ride adjustability.

Still, though, this sled lets you define how much adventure you want by offering one of two Rotax four-strokes (900 ACE or 1200 4-TEC) or a choice of two Rotax E-TEC two-stroke twins, the 600cc or 800cc, just not the newest 850 E-TEC. If you like more off-trail capability we’d suggest the 800cc two-stroke for its quick revving potential and lower, by nearly 30 pounds, weight versus the 1200 4-TEC version, which provides far better fuel economy and trail-oriented mileage.

Ski-Doo Enduro Dash Controls

Ski-Doo took its Renegade-based Enduro more upmarket with adjust-on-the-fly Air Ride suspension, Pilot TS skis with dial-in runners and multi-mode fuel efficient four-stroke Rotax engine options along with a choice of 600cc or 800cc E-TEC two-strokes.

Arctic Cat counters these “adventure” models with its own on/off-trail chassis CrossTour series offering a choice of engine options that include its own new 600cc C-TEC2 two-stroke and either Yamaha’s non-turbo 1049cc triple or the Yamaha 998cc turbocharged triple with 200 horsepower at the throttle flipper. The XF7000 CrossTour does not get the new cinched-in Next Gen side panels, but can accommodate the auxiliary 4.3 US gallon fuel tank.

Arctic Cat CrossTour

Cat offers up a number of “adventure” models, including the CrossTour with a 146-inch length track, four-stroke Yamaha triples, excellent storage options, plus an optional auxiliary 4.3 US gallon fuel tank to extend your riding range.

Cat also offers a more serious off-trail adventuring setup in its XF Cross Country packages powered with either Cat’s newest C-TEC2 800cc or 600cc two-stroke twins or the Yamaha-sourced 998cc turbocharged four-stroke. These models draw more from the mountain series of Cat models, which make them better suited for the serious off-trail adventurer.

As Cat supplies Yamaha with chassis works, you’d be correct in thinking that there would be Yamaha versions of these action and adventure snowmobile models carrying Yamaha nomenclature. The Yamaha Sidewinder S-TX 146 starts with Cat’s XF platform and carries its own Yamaha-specified clutching for the 200-hp Genesis turbo to churn its 146-inch track length. A B-TX version stretches track length to 153 inches and adds Yamaha’s proprietary Mountain Ski, which our deep powder riders rate as “excellent.”

Yamaha STX Sidewinder

Yamaha enters the “adventure” sled category with Cat-based but Yamaha-powered models of its own like the powerful Sidewinder S-TX with a 146-inch track and luggage carriers standard.

Adventure snowmobile riding? Yes, no, maybe? There are certainly quite a few ways of looking at adventure this season, but we’d stick with the two originals, Polaris’ Switchback Adventure or Ski-Doo’s Renegade Enduro.

Not to denigrate Arctic Cat or Yamaha – or even the other Polaris Adventure versions, but we view the originals as the best offerings and as simply defining the best choices. In our view, an adventure snowmobile should be just that, one that best matches the snowmobile-personality and snowmobiling lifestyle of its rider.

If you are a mostly serious off trail type but need an occasional two-up complement for family trail riding to maintain in-home harmony, then something like the Polaris Switchback Adventure or Cat’s Cross Country would most likely work for you. We view the Cat as more serious off trail, though.

For the mostly trail-dedicated rider, Cat’s CrossTour with added fuel and a two-up seat option would be a good option. Still, it’s not our first choice. Nor is the Yamaha B-TX or S-TX.

Our choices come down to basic needs and wants. As an action adventure snowmobile rider, the Switchback sans two-up accoutrements would be the first choice. The “bones” of the Polaris Adventure are very good for on/off trail riding.

But as an adventuresome rider with a veteran’s taste for on-trail pleasure and comfort, there is only one choice, the Ski-Doo Enduro – with either 1200 4-TEC or 900 ACE power. It’s stylish and has the “look” of a performance sled. Then there are its technological credentials like the on-trail adjustability of the air-ride suspension and multi-mode engine settings, not to mention the TS ski’s dial-in settings for grip and rMotion tune-ability. That’s enough adventure for some of us. You young’uns define your own sense of adventure. This is ours.