You don’t get to the top of the class by being average. Ski-Doo is still the #1 sled-maker in the world, and for 2020, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) has injected their state-of-the-art 850cc DI 2-stroke E-Tec motor into even more market segments. The Gen 4 chassis is hitting its peak this year as well. Plus, the Summit mountain line gets some attention, and there’s always action going on in the heavily populated Ski-Doo crossover market.
Utility can be cool
Often times in the past, the utility sled owners spoke quietly when asked by the loud-mouth speed demons what kind of sled they had. For many years, it was almost like the utility folks were the shy kids in the corner that did not really show off all the incredible talents they had. Well those days are gone! Ski-Doo (and Polaris in particular as well) have shown that utility sleds can be cool, and also extremely useful. Ski-Doo even has a new utility sled, professional ambassador on staff now!
Four years ago, the Gen4 chassis and 850 motor came out, then in 2019 the wide body design for the 4-stroke turbo sleds were introduced. Now the Gen 4 chassis is available in the 20-inch wide-track utility segment of Ski-Doo’s lineup.
The XU was a great workhorse chassis for a long time for Ski-Doo, but the new Gen 4 utility machine is 1¾ inches narrower, and certain models dropped up to 30 pounds. That’s great news for guys and gals who are trooping in and out of the back country pulling sleighs, toting fishing gear, or riding 2-up. These sleds stay on the top of the snow.
The Expedition is the 2-up and utility flagship sled, and it comes in the SE, LE, and Xtreme packages. The Xtreme gets the 850 Etec motor, and the other two models have a choice of 900 ACE Turbo, 900 ACE naturally aspirated, and 600 Etec motors. This Expedition sled is warmer with a taller windshield option, and has new Pilot 7.4 utility skis with a deeper keel that are more aggressive and wider.
The SE is a spring-only model and has all kinds of freaking awesome features including push-button RER reverse, big 7-inch digital display, adjustable riser, new multi-LinQ plate on the tunnel for accessories, huge cargo box and 3 track options. Tracks include the Silent Cobra 1.5, the Silent Ice Cobra 1.5, and the Cobra 1.8… all these are in the 20-inch width. These new Silent tracks are even more quiet (1.5x’s) than they were on the XU chassis as well. The multi-LinQ is a utility and touring person’s dream, with 125 pounds of cargo capacity, and 67% more capacity than the XU chassis. The rear end can handle 40% more cargo weight than the nearest competitor, or so Ski-Doo claims. There’s an accessory bumper too that takes the towing capacity up to more than some small pickup trucks (1500 lbs). Plus, the accessories like a gun holder, ice auger holder, chain saw holder, axe holder and more make this the most versatile sled in the industry.
There is an easier shift transmission, that’s much better than clunky systems you’ve seen in the past on utility sleds. Plus, push button reverse on the start button, like all other BRP sleds, so that action is easy and smooth. Honestly, that is a huge issue that I have using utility sleds, and BRP addressed it… kudos to the product manager and engineers over in Quebec! Plus, the seats are re-designed, more comfortable, and have more storage on the Expedition. Check out all kinds of new LED accessory lights for these sleds too, which are changing the game for extending your day and riding time. Give me an accessorized Expedition Extreme for our family time up in Northern Ontario and the trails, lakes, fish, and sliding hills will never know what hit them!
The Expedition SWT, Sport, Skandic SWT and WT, and Tundra Xtreme, LT and Sport return as well to round out the Ski-Doo Utility market with little changes. The Grand Touring in the limited and Sport versions also return with the 600 ACE Sport being BAT certified for use in parks like West Yellowstone.
Summit X Expert
The second biggest news, IMO, from Ski-Doo is the spring-buy Summit X with Expert package (Summit X also is spring buy only). With Kashima coated HPG Plus ski shocks, and a KYB Pro piggyback in the back of the skid, this sled is snocross or cornice-drop ready. The springs on the coil-over shocks are new, lightweight versions and the shock/spring package is actually a stiffer calibration. Of all the OEMs, Ski-Doo seemingly pays the most attention to cutting weight, and keeping a balance by not sacrificing performance. This is a package basically built by big name Ski-Doo ambassadors like Carl Kuster, Bret Rasmussen, Tony Jenkins, and Jeremy Mercier. Upgrades include a lower handlebar strap, lower bar riser with tapered bars, new lower seat, limiter strap adjuster on the side of the tunnel, new lightweight ski-spindle and stopper, and more.
The tunnel on the 154 is more like a 146 length, which is great for technical maneuvers in tight trees, or to be able to throw around quickly. The 165 length is also fantastic, but both come with a lightweight ‘fender’ with a miniscule snow flap. Nobody who values their goggles or helmet will want to follow this 3-inch lugged monster down the trail for more than 5 seconds, because it basically throws mini-snow boulders to the sky. Not having a snow flap is all the rage in the mountains and among millennial riders across North America. We see the advantages when riding in 5-feet of powder, but honestly, 90% of the people who buy this sled could get along just fine with a standard flap… and everyone else in your group would be much happier to ride with you.
The Summit in-season models include the SP (850 and 600 Etec) and Sport (with only a 600 carb motor option). There are also some new Summit accessories including a new extreme skid plate and small 1-gallon fuel caddy, which is great if you have snow-bikes in your group.
Freeride, Backcountry, Renegade, MXZ… all tough to beat
It’s just tough to beat the lineup that Ski-Doo has built over the years. The Renegade and MXZ Gen 4 packages return for 2020 with little changes. For Spring buying MXZ and Renegade X or XRS customers, there are track options including the Ripsaw 1.25, Ice Ripper 1.25 and the Ice Ripper 1.5. The Blizzard is gone from the line-up, but honestly won’t be missed that much. Of any of the manufacturers, Ski-Doo has had very close, almost duplicate models for many years. You’ve heard the talk of simplifying across the industry, and this is really the only large simplifying move for Ski-Doo. The MXZ TNT gets the handguards, different shield, better graphic options, and Ice Ripper track option for 2020. So, like we said, the Blizzard most likely won’t be missed.
The Renegade in-season models will still include the Enduro, Adrenaline and Sport models. The only change being a heated visor plug on the Enduro. But for 2020, there are more options for the MXZ and Renegade including Fox shock options in the accessory catalogue, two separate adjustable windshield accessories, and lots more. It is almost as much fun as sitting down with your copy of OSM as it is to sit down with your Ski-Doo parts, garments and accessories catalogue… but not quite.
The last big news from Ski-Doo is the new Backcountry 154-inch sled. We can’t say enough good things about the Backcountry, and in a 16 x 154-inch 2.0 lug or 2.5 lug option, this XRS is a ton of fun. We do think there is some duplication here with a lot of the same attributes that make the Backcountry great, also making the Freeride great. We will go into all the finite details in later articles, but the main differences are having a narrower ski-stance with quick-disconnect option. The 146-inch 850 Backcountry returns in the X or standard model, (with 600cc Etec option) and these sleds can follow most full-on mountain sleds wherever they want… and still be ultra-comfy in the trails.
The Freeride 154 38-inch sled is gone for 2020, seemingly replaced by the Backcountry XRS with its upgraded shock package. But this sled has a ton of capability on-trail and off, in any of the 137, 146, 154, or 165-inch lengths. They all only come in the 850 package and a new vibrant blue colorway. The 154-165 come with full length profiled boards, and new lightweight Summit-style ski-spindle and ski-stopper we mentioned earlier. These boards have wider openings for your boots, more grip and save a little weight as well.
Needless to say, Ski-Doo is projected to keep its hold on the top spot in the snow industry for 2020, but they can’t sit still, nor will they.
By Mark Boncher