Part One gave you the data, now our test riders give you their opinions of the 2011 powder sleds
Numbers and data about the 2011 model year powder sleds came in Part One of our annual mountain sled evaluation. That’s fine if you plan to ride a spec sheet, but like you, our test riding crew of real world “Snow Joe” powder jockeys have their own common-man riding opinion on our fleet of five. Riding the high country where the powder is deep and endless is their passion and they want the sleds that can get to it and let them play until the final dinner bell rings. These are their opinions, their likes and wants.
To keep things simple, our test crew used a little powder evaluation shorthand and referred to the Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro as “M8;” the Ski-Doo XP Summit X as “XP;” the Polaris Pro Ride RMK Pro as “Pro;” the Yamaha FX Nytro MTX as “MTX;” and Polaris Switchback Assault as “Assault.”
Based on two days in the hills where they switched around and tried every sled to weigh its merits, here is their opinion of our fleet of five mountain sleds. Keep in mind; the three 800 mountain sleds (M8, Pro and XP) are comparable in their niche, while the MTX and Assault have to be measured on their own singular merits.
In Their Opinions
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: Thumbs up for its really good power and decent handling. It did not take me long to feel at home on this sled.
Polaris RMK Pro: Thumbs up as the best sled. I felt instantly at home with it. It has smooth power. Its ‘float’ is awesome; just an all around great snowmobile.
Personal Fave: If I were to purchase one of these five sleds, I would buy the Pro. For me, it has the best handling.
— REXBURG, ID
- Occupation: Marketing Manager for Klim Technical Riding Gear
- Years riding: 13 years
- Current snowmobile owned: M8 HCR with BoonDockers pump gas turbo
- Favorite riding type: Boondocking in deep powder and technical terrain.
Polaris Switchback Assault: I like its rider position. I imagine I’m on my KTM 300XC. It is easy to ride. I don’t have to bounce from one side to the other to make it respond. Yet, it seemed to me its suspension was stiff.
Yamaha FX Nytro MTX: It has plenty of power to get the job done. The MTX is easy to initiate a side hill run and is easy to maneuver. Though the MTX was easy to maneuver into a hill, it was hard for me to hold it on its side hill pass.
Ski-Doo XP Summit X: Of all the snowmobiles this had the most grunt; I really liked its throttle response. For me though, I had a hard time side hilling it, making downhill turns and keeping it on its side; it wants to return the skis to the ground.
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: The M8 is the most predictable when it comes to maneuvering in varying terrains, and in side hilling and completing downhill turns. When I get the sled on its side I know exactly what it is going to do. In bumpy terrain, though, this sled is not the most comfortable. I also feel this sled is not the easiest to get it on its side. I find myself having to move both of my feet to one side to throw it over.
Polaris RMK Pro: Easiest to roll onto its side. I found myself placing both feet on one or the other side less often to start a side hill pass. I was able to ride it like a motorcycle with each foot on its applicable running board as I shifted my weight side-to-side to make it respond. Yet, it can be a little unpredictable. For example, it’s easy to start into a side hill and with quickness it will point straight up the hill when you least expect it; it is sensitive to foot placement.
Personal Fave: If I had to buy one of the five sleds, a hard decision, it would come down to the Pro or M8. I wish I could take what I like from both and make one sled. Since this is impossible, I would purchase the M8, I am the most comfortable on it.
- Occupation: Paramedic/Firefighter
- Years riding: 40+ years
- Current snowmobile owned: Last owned was a 2008 Yamaha Nytro
- Favorite riding type: Boondocking in the hills and trees
Polaris Switchback Assault:: On the hillcross it was stable in the corners with its wide ski stance. It’s playful and light. With a good base and 8- to 12-inches of powder, it will go anywhere, getting on top as well as the other long tracks. As I struggle with technical moves like downhill side hilling, I was able to move this machine around fairly easy. I am a fan of its wide running boards that gave me confidence; I did not notice them hanging up in the snow.
Yamaha FX Nytro MTX: Everyone knows this is a 600-class machine. Yet when I see one, it’s running with an 800. I know I had one two years ago. I ride the Nytro differently utilizing its bottom-end torque to pull through the tough stuff. Although when track speed is needed, it is not there. On the trail and flats, the machine is a rocket. In the hillcross, it stayed steady and smooth. I love its smooth four-stroke. It is well balanced when throwing it from side to side. When side hilling, it would easily come up on top and stay on top, but as soon as I let off the throttle, the nose would drop.
Ski-Doo XP Summit X: This one surprised me the most. I was one that did not like the earlier XP’s characteristics. But first, the biggest surprise was its electric start; quite nice. The second surprise was how light and nimble it felt, though being the heaviest of the 800 mountains sleds in the group. It delivered a smooth ride through the hillcross and the skis stayed planted. For hill climbing and technical riding, it did everything I asked it.
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: Another snowmobile that surprised me. I rode it on the trail leading to the riding area with its handlebars in its lowest position, which was comfortable. When climbing, I forgot to raise the bars, which would have helped with my style of riding. Until then, I did not care for M8. Once I raised the bars, I felt it handled as good as any of the others. On the trail it was great. However I needed to move forward in the corners to give it some ski pressure. Overall, a comfortable and easy handling machine after I learned how to make it function for me.
Polaris RMK Pro: On the trails, I needed to move forward to the handlebars to give it more ski pressure when hitting the corners. The suspension was a bit stiff on the trails. Technical riding through the trees and climbing was done with confidence, as I did not notice it pushing in the powder. Many riders claim, “If you think it, it will go there.” With my level of experience, it did not take less or more input than the other sleds.
Personal Fave: Of the five, and in the conditions we rode in, and for my riding style, the Assault was light, nimble, easy to handle, and I believe would handle any type of riding I could throw at it and by doing so, it improve my style of riding. Plus it just looks hot.
- Occupation: Department of Energy
- Years riding: 30
- Current snowmobile owned 2008 Polaris FST mod (converted to a FST RMK)
- Favorite riding type: “Big bowls are my favorite.”
Polaris Switchback Assault: It delivered the most fun of any snowmobile I’ve ridden in years. It can climb with the longer sleds, yet it handles far better in all situations. Shocks are awesome, handlebars are great, awesome power, astonishing good looks with the orange paint scheme, wide running boards held my feet better than the RMK. It is wicked fast.
Yamaha FX Nytro MTX: Ski pressure was the heaviest of the five; suspension harsh. It was very fast in the drag races. The motor has awesome low end pull to an impressive mid-range, but falls off on the top end. The four-stroke torque is addictive. It worked well in the powder when not made to compete against the 800s. Ride it for what it is, and you will certainly enjoy it. Ergos along with fit and finish are typical Yamaha perfection.
Ski-Doo XP Summit X: I love this sled! The first thing I noticed was the front ski shocks worked well — they easily moved through their stroke. The rear skid was just as nice. This sled is flat awesome; at the end of the day when you’re tired and have an 18-mile ride on a beat up trail back to the truck, this is the sled to ride. In the steep and deep I was just as impressed. I could actually side hill it and hold it as long as I wanted. Unlike past XPs, you can side hill this one and don’t need to be an XP rider to enjoy it. Ditch the floppy grab bar and install a stiff one.
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: This chassis is old in its design, but in a word, it “works;” nothing fancy. I found the M8 to do everything very well, that’s the problem; it does everything very well, but nothing great. Maybe it’s just the laid back feel the sled has. No matter how hard I ride it, it yawns and does what you ask – no twitchiness and nothing jittery. I felt at home on this sled. The M8 is the epitome of composure. Awesome power, fantastic deep snow mobility, side hill it all day long, climb the gnarliest chutes, play in the trees, the Arctic Cat M8 simply works. Yet, it has an old, tired design.
Polaris RMK Pro: Lightest in its class, with fantastic ergos and suspension, yet less power than the others, but it puts it to the ground better than the rest. Awesome skis, light steering, great seat, doesn’t hang up in the powder while side hilling or climbing and has excellent track. This is the sled to own for deep powder riding. I would buy this sled in a heartbeat if it weren’t for one thing, the Polaris Pro Assault with a 144-inch by two-inch paddle track.
Personal Fave: In the end, if I were to put my hard earned coin down on one of these sleds to buy and have as my own, for my style of riding and for the pure fun and excitement of the sport my pick would be, the Polaris Pro Assault with a 144-inch by two-inch paddle track.
- Occupation: Project Controls Engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory
- Years riding: 20
- Current snowmobile owned 2007 Ski-Doo Rev 800 Adrenaline
- Favorite riding type: “I like to mix it up.”
Polaris Switchback Assault: Easy to ride. Well balanced. Quick. Plenty of power. Maneuverable. Sticks a side hill with little effort. Sharp turns in powder can be accomplished while straddling the seat; no need to place both feet on one side of the sled. The shorter track is noticeable. When climbing in the powder it won’t go as far as its longer brother, the Pro. Has a tendency to roll onto its side when leaning sideways to make a sharp turn. However, this is easily overcome with practice. Needs a mountain strap on the handlebars.
Yamaha FX Nytro MTX: Even power band. Smooth ride. Hard to side hill.
Ski-Doo XP Summit X: Great power. Smooth ride, even on a washboard trail. Takes more effort to hold a side hill. Less maneuverable, due to higher tipping angle and wider turning radius.
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: Easy to ride. Well balanced. Holds a side hill very well. Maneuverable. Quick and powerful. I like the adjustable handlebars. Comfortable seat. Seems a bit old school, perhaps due to the wider one-piece hood and fuel tank.
Polaris RMK Pro: My favorite of the bunch. Easy to ride. Well balanced. Quick. Plenty of power. Maneuverable. Sticks a side hill with little effort. Sharp turns in powder can be accomplished while straddling the seat… no need to place both feet on one side of the sled. Has a tendency to roll onto its side when leaning sideways to make a sharp turn. However, this is easily overcome with practice. Then it’s just a lot of fun.
Personal Fave: I would buy the Pro. I like its balance, throttle response, tractability (ability to side hill easily), ergonomics (sitting position), looks, and body position response. It follows the direction of your body position very well when leaning into a counter steer turn. There is no need to swing a leg to the offside to make tight turns in the powder, so it’s less strenuous and more enjoyable to ride.
KENNY ANDERSON—RIGBY/RIRIE, ID
- Occupation: Owner, Anderson Cabinet &Millwork
- Years riding: 38
- Current snowmobile owned 2009 and a 2006 Yamaha Outlaw Performance turbo Apex, and a 2008 XP with a turbo.
- Favorite riding type: Mountain technical with amounts of tree riding.
Polaris Switchback Assault: Good stance on front. Stable. Agile. Fun. Quick. Good power. Yet, it needs a mountain bar and more track.
Yamaha FX Nytro MTX: Stable, good throttle, steady, good in fast, hard bumps. But, heavy, hard to keep from tipping down the hill. Not as agile.
Ski-Doo XP Summit X: Super smooth motor, great power, best ride in bumps, best rear skid. Needs stiffer mountain bar, bigger skis, wider front end and a 15-inch wide track; the sled threw me off in some conditions. The texture of the white hood gathers oil and exhaust.
Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro: Stable, good track, smooth, good power, and fun to ride. Chassis is old, tips late, if you can’t keep it pointed up hill, it takes you down the hill. Not easy to roll over and come back up.
Polaris RMK Pro: It comes over the fastest, downhill turnarounds are real fun, nimble, and quick to carve. It is stable once you get used to the quick tip. Best track and great power. It is fun for trees, and deep powder riding; a real good balanced sled. At times it is too easy to tip in some conditions, my boots wanted to come off the running boards and it has a stiff rear ride.
Personal Fave: In the end, of the five I rode, I would buy the Pro and add a Garrett turbo.
Related Reading 2011 Mountain Sled Evaluation: Part One 2011 Mountain Sled Preview 2011 Yamaha FX Nytro MTX SE Review 2011 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault 144 Review 2011 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault 144 Review: Mountain Test 2011 Polaris RMK Review 2011 Arctic Cat M8 Lineup Review 2011 Ski-Doo 800 Summit Review