The best snowmobiles for deep snow are arguably the lightweight 2-stroke sleds. These models feature long tracks for better floatation and traction. If you want to learn more about crossover and off-trail sleds and discover the best snowmobiles for deep snow by brand, this post is for you!
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If you want to learn how to ride a sled in deep snow, don’t miss our step-by-step guide!
Which is the Best Snowmobile for Deep Snow?
When it comes to snowmobiles, there are basically three ways to use them. You can ride them exclusively on trails, off-trails, or alternately in both places. Based on that, these are the three main categories of sleds:
- Trail snowmobiles: designed for trail riding
- Off-trail snowmobiles: designed for deep snow
- Crossover snowmobiles: they do a good job in deep snow and on the trails as well
In recent years, off-trail and crossover sleds have become more popular in the US and Canada.
Manufacturers do not only come out with more and more of these models each year, but they also put a great deal of effort into advertising them. Therefore, they don’t just make their sleds more popular, but off-trail riding as well.
Let’s look at the most important features that make a snowmobile suitable for riding in deep snow!
Off-trail sleds are usually the most lightweight models on the market. Why?
This is because heavier sleds offer worse floatation, which is a big drawback in deep snow. They not only get stuck easier in deep snow, but it’s also a pain digging them out.
Moreover, the low weight can significantly reduce your fatigue, which is also an important factor during long rides. Therefore, if you are looking for the best snowmobiles for deep snow, pay double attention to the weights!
One of the keys to low weight is the 2-stroke engine. That’s why the best off-trail sleds are powered with 2-stroke power sources. They are not just lightweight but offer a better power-to-weight ratio. All good points in the powder! If you want to regularly ride your sled off-trail, especially in the mountains, you should choose among the most powerful models. Steep hills and deep powder are definitely not for entry-level and under-powered sleds!
Chassis and Design
Off-trail sleds are specially designed for the best deep-snow experience. That’s why they are built on lightweight chassis and feature aluminum parts.
Many of them offer lower seat height, a low handlebar strap, thinner handlebars, and so on. They usually offer a seat for one rider, as it’s not typical to ride in deep snow with passengers.
When it comes to tracks, the average length of off-trail tracks ranges from 145” up to 174”. That’s why these models are also known as “long-track snowmobiles.”
The main advantage of these longer tracks is that they provide better flotation and traction. Besides their length, the width and the lug height of the track are no less important.
If you are looking for your first off-trail sled, you can’t go wrong with a 145”-154” track, as they are still more agile compared to the longer tracks.
Regarding width, shorter tracks are usually 14”-15” wide, while the long tracks are typically 15” and 16” wide for better flotation.
The lugs on these tracks are also longer to provide more traction and performance. It’s also good to know that your track shouldn’t be studded if you ride only in deep snow.
You can learn more about snowmobile track dimensions here.
Ski Dimensions and Stance
Many freeride riders prefer wider skis for better flotation and a harder bite. As they say, the number one rule in off-trail riding is that you have to keep your sled from sinking into deep snow.
If you are not happy with the stock skis, you can choose from several aftermarket snowmobile skis, which are typically 6”-10” wide depending on the model.
Besides their advantages, they have some cons as well. First, they come with hefty price tags, as they cost around $300-$500 depending on the model.
Moreover, they are heavier than stock skis, thus increasing the sled’s overall weight.
On the other hand, the skis shouldn’t be too wide, as they have to be balanced with the snowmobile.
If you choose a ski that is too wide, it can lead to an imbalanced sled as the wide skis will provide too much floatation during your turns. This may result in handling issues and a poor riding experience.
Ski stance is an often overlooked dimension on a snowmobile. As a rule of thumb, mountain sleds come with a narrower ski stance for better agility, but if it’s too narrow, it can make the sled tippy.
You can also find special “hill-climb snowmobiles” on the market that feature a wider front-end ski stance for extra stability.
Features and Accessories
The best off-trail snowmobiles come with many important features and accessories like high-performance shock absorbers, which do a really good job on every bump.
Remote limiter strap adjusters come in handy if you want to change the limiter strap length without getting off the seat. What’s more, these sleds also typically have large LCD screens for your convenience. Beware that the features offered vary from one model to the next!
Are you wondering what the best off-trail snowmobiles are by brand? Keep reading!
The Best Snowmobiles for Deep Snow by Brand
The best snowmobiles for deep snow by brand are as follows:
- Ski-Doo Freeride and Summit
- Polaris RMK
- Arctic Cat Alpha
- Yamaha Mountain Max
Ski-Doo Freeride and Summit
Ski-Doo Freeride and Summit models are arguably among the best off-trail snowmobiles on the market. One of the most popular Ski-Doo models is the Freeride 850 E-TEC 165, which was named the “King of the Mountain” in 2018 by the Snow Goer’s magazine.
When it comes to the Summit series, some models are already available with turbocharged 2-stroke power sources.
Let’s take a look at the best deep-snow Ski-Doo models:
The best Polaris snowmobiles for off-trail rides are the RMK series. Did you know that RMK stands for “Rocky Mountain King”?
According to Polaris, the RMK series has the strongest, lightest, and most agile deep-snow sleds on the market.
Specially designed for backcountry riding, the RMK series feature a lightweight AXYS platform and high-performance Polaris engines, which makes it incredibly responsive.
These sleds also come with the PRO RMK React Suspensions and a unique track design for the best traction and floatation available.
Arctic Cat Alpha Series
Arctic Cat currently offers 2 sleds in the “Mountain” category, the M Mountain Cat Alpha One, and the M Hardcore Alpha One.
Both models are powered with the C-TEC2 8000 engine and feature the unique ALPHA ONE™ Single-Beam Rear Suspension.
Would you like to compare the Alphas to competitor models? Then don’t miss this comprehensive review!
Yamaha Mountain Max (and SXVenom)
Last but not least, the good news is that Yamaha’s 2-stroke sleds are back with six brand new sleds and two 2-stroke (Arctic Cat) power sources.
The SXVenom family has three different models, one for trail-ride, one for deep snow, and one for utility purposes.
As these models are primarily designed for beginner and young riders, they are built on a lightweight intermediate-sized chassis. Additionally, all of them are powered with a 2-stroke, 400cc, fuel-injected engine, which provides 65 HP.
The deep-snow model is labeled as SXVenom MTN and comes with a 153x15x2.25 track and single track rear suspension for better performance.
Unlike the entry-level SXVenoms, the Mountain Max sleds have the more powerful 749cc, 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engine option. You can find 2 different models in this family, with 154” and 165” tracks.
Because of Yamaha’s relationship with Arctic Cat, their models have a lot in common.
Many say that Yamaha’s Mountain sleds are pretty close to Arctic Cat’s Alphas, while the SXVenoms look like the Arctic Cat’s Blast family.
Whatever, these sleds are definitely worth a serious look!
Conclusion – Which are the Best Off-Trail Snowmobiles?
The best off-trail snowmobiles are the agile 2-stroke models with a lightweight chassis and long tracks. As a rule of thumb, off-trail sleds feature tracks from 153” to 174” in length depending on the model. When selecting your off-trail sled, don’t forget to consider these important factors:
- Engine stroke and power
- Track dimensions
- Ski dimensions and stance
- Features and accessories
When it comes to different brands and families, it’s safe to say that the best snowmobiles for deep snow are the following models:
- Ski-Doo Freeride and Summit
- Polaris RMK
- Arctic Cat Alpha
- Yamaha Mountain Max
Riding in powder offers an amazing riding experience. That’s why it’s more and more popular in the US.
As all of these models feature long tracks, big chassis, and powerful engines, they come with hefty price tags as well. Many of them cost around $15,000 or even more!
Moreover, riding in deep snow puts a lot of stress on the engine, which results in shorter engine life, burned belts, and high fuel consumption.
Simply put, you should be prepared for more repairs and maintenance costs compared to trail riding!