Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Check out our YouTube Channel

2014 Mountain Snowmobile Powder Evaluation

These really are the golden years for mountain snowmobilers. The days of long-tracked trail sleds are long gone and we now have sleds purpose built for steep and deep mountain riding. This year the Powder Evaluation consisted of the 800 mountain sleds from Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo along with a modified Yamaha Viper XTX with a very similar spec to Yamaha’s upcoming 2015 mountain offering. Aside from the Yamaha, these sleds had no special tuning or modifications and are setup exactly the same as any customer would buy from their local dealer. After putting several hundred break-in miles on we headed to the mountains to pitch the sleds against each other to determine the ultimate mountain snowmobile.

Weight Test
Mountain riders always say lightweight is key as sleds climb higher and are all around easier to ride. We filled the machines with fuel and oil, added a spare belt and ensured the machines were dry of snow and ice. Weighing sleds with fuel and oil doesn’t offer the most flattering number, but it is the most accurate weight as you would actually ride them. Using a digital hanging scale, we lifted each of the machines completely off the ground using a shop hoist and tie-downs. Polaris Pro-RMK 800 155 was the lightest of the group with a weight of 512 lbs. with the slightly longer 163 weighing just 4 lbs. more. Ski-Doo’s Summit SP 800 154 weighed 552 lbs. but with a 10.6 gallon fuel tank it is carrying about 5.5 lbs. less fuel than the Polaris and Cat. Arctic Cat M8000 Sno-Pro 153 weighed 562 lbs. LCC’s long tracked Yamaha Viper weighed 613 lbs. While the Viper was still the heaviest machine in the test it is the lightest 4-stroke mountain sled we have ever had in the Powder Evaluation showing that weight gap with 2-strokes is narrowing.
 800 Pro-RMK 155  512.2
 800 Pro-RMK 163  516.4
 Summit 800 SP 154  551.8
 M 8000 Sno Pro 153  561.7
 Viper XTX Mod 162  612.8
The longer 163 track length Pro-RMK impressed us with its deep snow and steep incline climbing abilities.
Hillclimb Test
Ideally this test would be performed on a deep snow hillside. Unfortunately wide open deep snow hillsides are the most prone to avalanches and this year avalanche danger was extremely high. We spent two days searching for a good hillside and after seeing slides we decided to play it safe and conduct the test on a safer harder snow hillside. The snow on this hill was hard and while we were still able to conduct an ⅛ mile uphill climb it should be noted that the snow was not deep enough to fully load the machines with snow and therefore the results are slightly different than had we been able to conduct the test in really deep snow. Arctic Cat laid down the quickest time followed by the 155 Polaris, 163 Polaris, Ski-Doo and then the Yamaha.
Handling Course
While handling is an extremely subjective attribute we try to quantify each sleds handling by running the sleds up a course using several different riders. We built a winding uphill course complete with some slower technical turns, a blind crest, and a fast straight section at the top. To measure the time between the startline at the bottom of the hill and finish line at the top we used an AIM GPS timer. We had the three riders ride the course as fast as possible on each of the five machines. Professional hillclimb racers, Jay Mentaberry and Chad Jorgensen were joined by backcountry rider Tanner Gittins. The three riders then rode the course as fast as possible on each of the five machines and recorded the times. Mentaberry laid down the fastest overall time with a 28.65 on the Ski-Doo, Chad Jorgensen recorded his fastest time on the 163 Polaris and Gittins had his best time on the 155 Polaris. With Jay and Tanner recording their fastest times on the sleds they have ridden the most. Individual times showed a big correlation between the rider and machine. To reduce the rider factor the three riders’ times were averaged for each machine to determine the quickest machine. The averaged results put the Pro-RMK 800 155 in first place followed by the Pro RMK 800 163, the Summit 800 154 in third, then the M8000 and the MTX.
 Handling Course
 Sled Chad  Jay  Tanner  Average   Place
 800 Pro-RMK 155  30.25 29.67  31.45  30.46 1      
 800 Pro-RMK 163  29.70  29.34  33.57  30.87 2
 SUMMIT 800 SP 154  30.85  28.65  35.03  31.51  3
 M8000 Sno Pro 153  30.52  32.09  34.40  32.33  4
 Viper XTX Mod 162  31.66  33.75  36.24  33.88  5

Rider makes a difference
In some cases the winners were determined by mere tenths of a second. Calculating all the results we established a ranking of the five machines in the test. Polaris’ Pro-RMK 800 155 scored first in the weight test, first in the handling course and second in the hillclimb test. The longer track 163 Polaris Pro-RMK 800 finished in second followed by the Arctic Cat M8000 Sno-Pro 153 in third. The Ski-Doo Summit 800 SP finished fourth followed by the Yamaha Viper.

While some sleds scored better than others in the tests it should be understood that a good rider can more than overcome the differences between these machines. The advancements in mountain sleds in recent years is incredible, and with a good rider at the controls every one of these is capable of accessing terrain that we only dreamt of in the past.

Overall Results
 Sled Weight   Handling Course  Hillclimb Test Place 
 800 Pro-RMK 155  1  1  2  1
 800 Pro-RMK 163  2  2  3  2
 SUMMIT 800 SP 154  4  4  1  3
 M 8000 Sno Pro 153  3  3  4  4
 Viper XTX Mod 162  5  5  5 5
"The machines we had for this year’s mountain sled powder evaluation were the best we’ve ever had. The 2014 Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo we tested are well refined snowmobiles. We were even lucky enough to test a long tracked 2014 Yamaha Viper. Going into the event, each rider had a favorite sled and this year we all differed by manufacturer! I don’t remember a year when every manufacturer offering was picked as a test rider favorite. To me this speaks volumes as to how hard each OEM has worked to offer the very best in mountain hardware. I think the results support this as well with times and scoring being so close with each sled. It used to be easy to find one sled that shines above the rest, but with the 2014 rides, it is not the case! It simply comes down to which sled you want to invest your time and gas money with. Test times and riding performance were a direct result of what sled each rider “trusted” the most. The word “trust” was used a lot by all of the riders throughout the weekend. Trust in your sled has become a key element to mountain snowmobiling due to the precarious situations we can now get ourselves into.

I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Yamaha Viper Mountain as compared to 2013’s naturally aspirated Nytro MTX. The sled ran great and we took it many places the Nytro simply wouldn’t have made it. The Viper lost some weight and gained some ride-ability so I think the supplier agreement with Yamaha and Arctic Cat was a good move. Now we just need an offering with HP numbers and MSRP that compares to the 800 2-stroke mountain sleds.

I haven’t had much seat time on Ski-Doo’s Summit XM 800 this year so it’s become a little foreign to me. My only issues with the XM we had were that the shocks were a little soft, but that’s easily remedied. I have picked the XM as a favorite in the past, but without riding it a bunch as a long term 2014 test sled, we have unfortunately grown apart. The sled is capable of amazing things in the hands of someone that rides it more often.

The tough decision of picking my favorite came down to the Polaris Pro-RMK 800 155 and the Arctic Cat M8000 153. I can switch between both sleds all day and be at home on either. The Pro has the widest sweet spot for one-ski balancing and a smooth, reliable power delivery. It’s the lightest in the herd and you notice it at the end of the day as you still have enough energy to stay awake behind the wheel when you trailer home. A significant but fixable flaw is that powdery snow has an easy time getting to the clutches which can induce belt slippage at inopportune times. The sled is nice and rigid while the engine is quiet enough that the soft whine of the belt drive can be heard. The Pro makes an excellent weapon for scalpel-precise tree riding and powder carving, but the M8000 induces ear-to-ear grins all day long. It’s a lively yet quirky sled with vibrations and rattles that unnerve some. The fuel gauge is inaccurate and the sled has a little too much ski pressure causing tracking and darting in the front end, so you’d better pay attention. On the other hand, the suspension is firm but not too much so, and I fear no mogul or flat landing. The M8000 inspires me to ride like I am 10 years younger! If only I had access to this sled back then!" - JOSH SKINNER
"Arctic Cat made constant improvements to the M8000 since its 2012 debut and while the Cat has a lot of strengths I am personally not as comfortable on this chassis. My biggest complaint is the way that the M8000 sticks the ski/spindle deep in the snow when turning downhill. However, the engine and track work extremely well, as we saw in the uphill test session.

Ski-Doo has done an amazing job with the Summit by building an easy-to-handle sled for any mountain rider, especially beginners. The combination of narrow ski-stance, T-motion, Flex Edge track and predictable power delivery offers almost motorcycle-style handling where a small amount of leaning is enough to turn the sled. While climbing, the Summit likes to lift the skis and although it’s fun, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the sled pointed in the right direction. The sled wasn’t #1 in any specific test, but it offers a very fun and exciting ride.

When the snow is deep and the trees are tight there is only machine for me, the Pro-RMK. The deep snow climbing abilities of this lightweight sled are incredible and the chassis is very well balanced in steep sidehill situations. The Pro-RMK can climb out of its own trench and keep moving forward in situations where you would think you would get stuck.

It was really cool to ride the LCC mod Yamaha as it has almost the same specifications as the 2015 Yamaha mountain sled will have. Considering the Yamaha is closer to the 600 class power output, the sled fared very well in our tests. It was great to see firsthand what this machine is capable of doing with rider Chad Jorgensen at the controls. There has been a performance gap between 4-strokes and 2-stroke sleds in the mountains in the past but it’s slowly shrinking with the Viper only 50 lbs. heavier than the Cat. Which, interestingly, is the same weight difference between the Polaris and Cat. If Yamaha could shave a few more pounds and add 20-30 horsepower they could be right there with the 2-strokes.

Each machine has certain situations where they really shine and with the right rider, each can do amazing things. I still dream of a machine that climbs and sidehills like the Pro, turns like the Summit, soaks up the bumps like the Cat with a reliable clean Yamaha engine. But since that isn’t currently possible, we have to prioritize attributes and my personal biggest priority is sidehilling in technical terrain. The machine best suited for this is the Pro-RMK." - STEPHEN W CLARK
"Each of these 2014 sleds have strengths and weaknesses. First, I loved the power of the Arctic Cat, it pulls strong, and the PowerClaw hooks up great. It was easy to initiate a sidehill, but I felt it wanted to flatten out. The Yamaha felt really similar to the Cat. I was surprised at its maneuverablity versus past Yamaha sleds. It felt really front-heavy though. I was really impressed by the Ski-Doo. It has great power and it’s easy to get into a sidehill, and it stays there and rarely washes out. It holds its line very well. However, the front end tended to dive when you would let off the throttle and suck you off your line. I feel the Pro is the most balanced sled of the fleet. It is so easy to get it on its side and it loves to stay there. You feel comfortable on the sled the moment you step on it. I feel you just look where you want to go and it’ll go there. It gets on top of the snow right away and rarely trenches. This is where it really separates from the Ski-Doo. The Ski-Doo doesn’t get on top of the snow quite as well, but it has power to make up for that. If I could change anything on the Pro, it would be to get a more powerful motor under the hood." - TANNER GITTINS
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Sign up for our free newsletter
By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.