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When you want the 'blues'

Ski-Doo riders can safely say they want a blue sled
2018 Ski-Doo Backcountry X 850
Black is the only color I used to like on my sleds, but I enjoyed the blue and hi-vis scheme on our 2018 Long Term Backcountry X. Plus, this sled is hard to beat in any category.

Preseason testing last year gave us a good idea about the capabilities of this sled, and we were sure it was going to be a win for anyone who bought one. We gave it our top crossover award in our 2018 Best of The Best awards (the new Backcountry X-RS won it this year). The black X version we tested pre-production was also on the cover of our October Buyer’s Guide issue last year. We couldn’t go without having one for a whole season to put through the tests, so we put an order in for a new blue one!

■ 50/50 sled at its best
When we talk about 50/50 sleds, we mean they are made to be as good off-trail where a rider might spend 50% of their time, as they are on trail where a rider might spend 50% of their time. This sled is the perfect example of doing this almost to perfection. Anytime we say a sled is this good, we back it up with Real World Stats, and this sled proved it as the only sled faster as far as top speed goes this year was the Yamaha Sidewinder XTX at our Real World Shootout.

This sled wasn’t blazingly fast, but it beat out the Renegade X-RS 850, Cat ZR 8000 and Polaris Switchback XCR 800. The real test will come this season when we test the new Polaris 850 in the Real World against this sled! Having the fastest ¼-mile time at 13.02 seconds of all these 800cc+ sleds and the top speed of 94.90mph is no small feat for a 146-inch 50/50 crossover. It proved it has the acceleration to hang with almost anything on the trail or lakes.

But what about off-trail? Our demo sled had the 15x146x1.6 Ice Cobra track on it which was the best-selling track for this sled last year. It is a do-all track that wasn’t meant to be as good off-trail as the 2.0-inch Powdermax. But I guess nobody told the Cobra that! With the combination of track-speed from the 850, slightly longer 146-inch skid (not 144), and the added tiny studs for traction, this track went anywhere we asked it to off-trail. We followed 154- and even 165-inch sleds all over the backcountry in the northern Midwest and Ontario. There are few places we wouldn’t feel at ease taking this sled east of the Mississippi.

We also noticed how light and easy to toss around this sled is. We weighed it at 543 pounds, fully wet. This sled did not have a full traditional trail stud package on it, but the Ice Cobra track is not the industry’s lightest either. The track moves around the cMotion rear suspension with a slightly tipped-up rail that is engineered just right to take advantage of lightweight, low rolling resistance, good off-trail floatation manners and sharp on-trail performance.
2018 Ski-Doo Backcountry X 850
Like we said in our Real World article, break-in time on the automated system still counts down on the gauge by minute amounts of oil used through the direct injection process, and the duration of 850 break-in was less this year. Full break-in for the Backcountry was achieved just over 300 miles, which is basically two full days of riding on most trail systems. That’s down from about 400 miles the past year and over 400 for the years the counter was on the smaller 800 ETEC. We think this is a good thing as three tanks of fuel should be enough to have just about any powersport product fully broken-in.

We swapped out a larger mid-height windshield with the Backcountry X as the original is the super low deep snow shield. One thing we love about Ski-Doos is that it takes literally seconds to swap windshields of varying sizes. Usually you only need two, one low and one medium/tall. At less than $159 and with the ease of swapping, we think it’s a good investment for folks who ride cold trails to get to an off-trail riding area.

■ Test riders realize

Every, little, thing … that’s what good test riders see. One constant debate amongst our riders is the differences between the Freeride and the Backcountry: the steering configuration, the controls (electric start and lights and bar warmers), the quick disconnect sway bar, and the track lug heights. The Freeride 146 (&137) and Backcountry 146 are a marketing spin and a few options away from each other and what one test rider wants on one, the other does not. Thankfully Ski-Doo accessories allow you to easily make whatever sled you buy into your own pretty quickly.

Some test riders still have not fallen in love with the “cut-out” toe holds on the Ski-Doo sleds as they feel they don’t allow them to “lock their feet in” on the trails. I personally have come to like them. Being a smaller rider, they allow me to move around more and get farther out over the front of the sled in tight trail corners.
We put over 1000 miles on this before we changed the belt, with no issues, and the sled had zero mechanical issues for the season. Test riders realize that too!
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