If you are a beginner, it’s recommended that you start riding on the trails with a trail-specific snowmobile. Generally speaking, the best beginner snowmobiles are the lightest machines with small-bore engines. If you are looking for the most lightweight models, you can’t go wrong with an entry-level sled powered by a 2-stroke, 400-600cc, fan-cooled engine.
If you want to find out what makes a beginner snowmobile the best, you’ve come to the right place.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know under one roof!
What Are the Best Beginner Snowmobiles?
When it comes to selecting your first snowmobile, you should consider many important factors, the most important of which are the following:
- Your age and size
- Purpose of use
- Engine type and power
- New vs. used
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about these in detail!
1. Your Age and Size
From the smallest 120cc sleds to the longest mountain models, the sizes of snowmobiles vary widely.
If you are looking for a sled for your kids, you should look at the tiny youth snowmobiles. These machines are designed for children from age 5 and up.
But if you are looking for a sled for a teenager or a small adult rider, you can’t go wrong with a mid-sized sled.
Regarding full-sized models, the dimensions and the weight of the machines strongly depend on their type and features. If you are a small or senior rider, you may want to go with a smaller 2-stroke sled that is easier to handle.
2. Purpose of Use
Another critical factor is what kind of riding you plan on doing. Manufacturers offer different types of snowmobiles designed for various purposes. You can find out more about the major snowmobile categories through these links:
If you are a complete beginner, best practice is that you start riding on groomed trails, even if you are more interested in off-trail riding. Playing in powder requires skills and a lot of bodywork, so it’s not recommended for novice riders!
Once you have gained some experience on the trails, you can switch to a mountain sled anytime.
Therefore, the best beginner snowmobiles are basic trail sleds. They come with short tracks, smaller naturally-aspirated engines, and affordable price tags. But if you’re about to plan longer trips and are looking for more comfort, you can also consider an entry-level touring sled.
If you have some buddies to ride with, it makes sense to buy the same brand they have. This can be beneficial when you need some help or want to make repairs on your sled.
3. Engine Type and Performance
Besides the size and type, the engine features of the sled are no less important.
As a rule of thumb, you should steer clear of the most powerful big bore and especially turbocharged engines. They deliver a ton of HP since they are intended for experienced riders and racers.
Best practice is to stick to the smaller, 400-600cc engines, like the 2-stroke 600 E-TEC. Regarding cooling systems, you cannot go wrong with either a fan-cooled or a liquid-cooled machine.
Fan-cooled engines deliver less power, but they are lighter and easier to work on. This is why “fanners” are considered great beginner sleds!
Let’s face it, today’s snowmobiles are quite heavy, but as a beginner, you want to ride a lightweight machine. Why?
First, the heavier the sled, the greater its momentum, which results in a longer stopping distance and more difficult handling. Riding a heavy snowmobile requires more muscle work and experience, especially at higher speeds.
Heavy snowmobiles are also much harder to turn over if you accidentally flip them. And when they accidentally sink in deep snow, digging them out is also more tricky.
Also, snowmobiling is not just about riding, as you will need to throw around the machine by hand or load it onto the trailer. Therefore, you should stick to lighter sleds with a weight of about 400-500 pounds.
If you are looking for the lightest sleds, here are some key factors to consider:
- 2-stroke engines are lighter than 4-strokes
- Small-bore engines are lighter than big-bores
- Fan-cooled sleds are lighter than liquid-cooled ones
If you are a beginner rider, you will definitely need some features that provide safety and convenience to make your life easier.
Therefore, you may want to invest in a sled that is equipped with a tether cord, electric start, and reverse gear. If you are looking for comfort, you should consider heated grips/thumb throttle and a larger windscreen for better wind protection.
Besides the features, make sure to pick high-quality gear and carry the essential accessories on you.
6. New vs. Used
Besides its features, another important factor is the price of the machine. Obviously, new snowmobiles are more expensive than used ones, and they also have a more noticeable price depreciation.
If you are on a tight budget, you should consider a used snowmobile, as it’s less expensive to start with.
The general rule is that unless you are a vintage sled fan, you should invest in a sled manufactured after 2006. Why?
This is because these machines come with a “rider forward design” and much better suspension systems than their vintage predecessors. They offer much better comfort and overall riding experience for a little more initial cost. Your back will appreciate it!
When shopping around, try to focus on well-maintained sleds with low mileage. If you find an older sled in good condition, a few years later you will probably be able to resell it for about the same amount you bought it for.
In contrast, if you invest in a new model, you should be prepared for a significant price depreciation.
If you are looking for a new machine or are not mechanically inclined, it’s important to find the closest dealerships in your area. It makes no sense to travel hundreds of miles to get the periodic maintenance and services done.
Remember that you typically have to leave your sled at the dealership and return when the work is done, meaning that you have to visit the dealership twice in most cases.
As a takeaway, we’ve compiled the factor that make the best beginner snowmobile for trail and mountain riding!
What makes for a Good Beginner Mountain Sled?
It’s safe to say that the best beginner mountain snowmobiles are the lightest fan-cooled 2-stroke machines with medium-sized tracks. Why?
This is because these models are the lightest mountain sleds available. And the more lightweight the sled, the easier it is to handle in powder!
And as a beginner off-trail rider, you will also get stuck in deep snow quite often. And as you might assume, a lighter sled is far easier to get unstuck.
When it comes to track sizes, you should avoid the longest tracks, as they require more skills and effort to handle. Sure, shorter off-trail tracks offer less floatation and traction, but they make the sled more agile and easier to ride.
Finally, make sure that you go with a sled equipped with an electric start, as pull-starting a sled in deep snow can be difficult most of the time.
To keep the sled’s weight low, use a lightweight lithium battery or consider a Ski-Doo with battery-less electric start (a.k.a. SHOT).
Which Starter Sled is a Good for Trail Riding?
The best beginner snowmobiles for trail riding are the entry-level trail machines like the Polaris Indy or the Yamaha SX Venom series. These sleds come with small-bore 2-stroke engines, a basic chassis, and short tracks. What’s more, they are among the most affordable new snowmobiles right now.
Whatever sled you choose, make sure it’s not powered by a turbocharged engine, as those high-performance machines are definitely not recommended for beginner riders!
If you are a complete beginner, choosing your first snowmobile can be daunting. Before you make your final decision, best practice is to do your research to learn about the different types of snowmobiles.
You may also want to try out some different sleds to gain some real experience. Since dealers don’t let you ride in most cases, you would do better by visiting some rental shops and rent different sleds. You can find tons of great snowmobile rental shops nationwide.
It also makes sense to join a club. If you are lucky, some guys will let you ride on their sleds!