What if you were faced with the choice of having to buy just one snowmobile to ride for the next 10, 15, maybe even 20-years. What sled would you choose? Frankly it’s a proposition we’ve never given much thought to around the On Snow offices. Seems we’re a bit spoiled thanks to a fleet of new iron arriving at the start of each snow season – some courtesy of the manufacturers for long term evaluations, others arranged through local dealerships, and still others we’ve purchased. Yet, when a good friend started talking about buying one more new sled before hanging it up and finding a warmer place to roam during the winter months, we gave the notion of “one last snowmobile” a long hard look.
When the SRViper arrived in 2014, Yamaha had already proven to the world that a performance four-stroke snowmobile wasn’t just possible, they shattered expectations. The 2003 RX1 proved it could be done; the Apex refined it; and the Viper broke down the final barrier. The marriage between Yamaha and Arctic Cat allowed the four-stroke engine expert to lower their high-performance Genesis triple into a race proven chassis developed by a company that prides itself on winning terrain races and plenty of them.
For 2019 Yamaha has made the tough (but right) decision to reduce production, get their loyal dealers healthy and in short do the right thing for the good of the industry (hopefully other makers follow suit). In doing so much of the focus on the 2019 line-up was in boosted Sidewinder models – but the one Viper model that remains (at least for now) is in our opinion one of the best all-around snowmobiles for 2019.
The SRViper L-TX is one of those sleds where nearly all the pieces fit just right, and with the slightly longer 137-inch track, the versatility of the Viper adds bonus points to the mix. Stable, planted and serving up ample traction on-trail, the longer footprint allows the Viper to delve off-trail as well. But it’s the proven and robust construction of the chassis and the faultless performance and durability of the Genesis triple that gives the Viper the nod for long-term ownership. We’re talking way long pal; the Genesis motor is capable of racking up 50,000 miles easily.
Turn the key and the motor instantly settles into a steady staccato idle. Once warmed, the deep rumble is matched by a torque laden powerband that is perfect for trails. It hits and pulls with linear consistency and does so with a laid back, easy to manage demeanor. Any rider of any ability will love the Viper. What’s more so will your wallet. After an initial break-in service, the cost of ownership is slim thanks to virtually no maintenance, no need for oil and great fuel economy.
Of course, every sled has room for improvement and the Viper is no different. The one-dimensional Tuner III skis do a great job at eliminating darting but lack bite for performance burns and also exhibit heavy steering effort in certain conditions. A swap to the Yamaha Mountain skis is good alternative if you want to keep things in the tuning fork family; otherwise there are several aftermarket options that will improve overall handling in a wider range of conditions.
We know the Viper is no featherweight and if dancing dirty ditch-lines or bombing wind lipped drifts is more your thing, lighter two-stroke alternatives will better suit your fancy. But if logging trail miles in comfort and with confidence is where your passion takes you, the Viper will fit the bill like a well-tailored suit.
For 2019 the Viper L-TX comes with few changes over the 2018 version other than new colors, new graphics, a sporty window, and revised idler wheel and rear axle design. A trip through the Yamaha accessory book will take care of the rest.
The Dual Shock 137 skid is tuned with high-pressure gas shocks on both arms. The SRViper lacks quick turn clickers and out of the box calibrations skew to the softer side of things.
With so many makers opting to burst their showroom fresh snow machines with huge splashes of color, we found the black and grey Viper to be one of the best-looking buggies on snow this winter.
Unfortunately, the Viper wasn’t privy to the updated handlebar controls found on most other Yamaha models for 2019. No matter, they function as expected and the layout is roomy and comfortable.
Smooth, that’s the Viper in action. The Genesis triple is about as predictable as they come and ideal for squeezing out smiles and miles on groomed twisted trails.