Modern day snowmobiles are highly specialized machines designed to meet the precise demands of today’s sporting public. Present day sleds come in a wide variety of categories such as trail riding, touring, utility and even “performance”, a classification built to satisfy event the most extreme riders. Each of these classes of sled come fully equipped with a laundry list of advanced features that would not even have been deemed feasible even a decade ago. This specialization of features has helped ensure that the snowmobile chosen for purchase will likely be exactly what is needed, for the task at hand, and not simply something close enough.
For the purpose of this article, discussed will be the strengths and benefits of trail and utility sleds, since these two categories encompass the two most widely purchased snowmobiles by consumers.
It is certainly no secret that trail riding as a sport is enjoying continued yearly growth among snowmobile enthusiasts. Proof of this is a recent statistic released by the International Snowmobile Association estimating that 230,000 miles of snowmobile trails exist in the United States and Canada, with the state of Wisconsin leading the pack with over 25,000 miles of snowmobile trails.
According to the Maine snowmobile association, Maine's snowmobile Interconnected Trail System (ITS) includes over 3,500 miles of trail. An additional 10,000 miles of trail, not covered by the ITS map, is maintained by local landowners and snowmobile clubs. This brings the total snowmobile trail system in Maine to over 14,000 miles of trail! Given the amount of access, to our most beautiful and pristine areas of Maine, that these trails provide snowmobile riders, it’s easy to understand why so many people have a passion for trail riding. Currently 265 clubs exist in Maine, affiliated with the Maine Snowmobile Association, with members riding an average of 920 miles per year.
Trail riding sleds strike a nice balance between speed of performance and comfort of touring snowmobiles. While not providing the same level of comfort afforded by touring sleds and lacking the raw power of performance sleds, trail snowmobiles still have plenty to offer. Trail sleds are typically lighter, more maneuverable and speedier than touring machines and have beefier suspensions allowing them to tackle rough trails.
In the market for a trail riding sled, it’s hard to beat the Yamaha Vector X-TX, Ski-Doo’s Enduro 1200, the easy on the pocketbook Polaris 550 Indy or the 2016 snowmobile of the year, the Arctic Cat ZR 8000. Anyone of these choices would provide years of trail riding comfort and reliable service.
Trappers, ice fishermen, loggers and even ski patrol operations rely heavily on utility sleds to simply get the job done. Utility snowmobiles are the workhorses’ of the sledding world, where having no fail equipment isn’t critical, it’s mandatory.
A good utility sled can tow heavy loads, carry gear and even offer basic weekend trail riding fun after the work week is done. Utility snowmobiles feature extra wide tracks and broad skis designed to plow easily through deep snow and support the additional weight these sleds carry. Tow hitches and low gearing ratios assist these behemoths in hauling logs, heavily laden sleds and even ice shack where lesser sleds would struggle. Built to take plenty of abuse, these snowmobiles aren’t typically high on performance but instead rugged and reliable.
In the market for a utility sled, I suggest taking a good look that the Yamaha VK Professional (author favorite), the Arctic Cat’s Bearcat Z1 XT, the Polaris 500 Widetrak LX or Ski-Doo Expedition. These snow machines have the required nuts . . . and bolts, to satisfy any utility sled rider and guarantee that by days end the job gets done.
Given all the choices of snow machines in today’s market, it really pays for the consumer to do a little research. If an opportunity presents itself, to be able to try out a particular sled before purchasing, be sure to do so. Sometimes a sled that seems to be a good fit for an individual at the dealership is a completely appears to be a completely different animal after just a few hours of operation. Snowmobile clubs are a great way to meet individuals who share your passions and many may own or at least possess valuable information on the sled you wish to purchase. In addition, some dealerships offer customers free events where sleds are available for test rides. With a small investment of time, customers ensure that the sled purchased will provide them, for years to come, with a piece of equipment matched to the intended riding conditions and required use.