Tempted (again) By The Dark Side

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 11, 2007      
Randonnee boot sole dimensions for backcountry skiing.
Snowest, 07/08 first issue. That’s their favored mountain 800 on the cover — Polaris Dragon RMK. But I like the Ski-Do Summit Everest because it weighs less.

Nope, I don’t mean I’m switching to telemark skiing. Instead, just as winter is defined by the arrival of the season’s first Backcountry Magazine, so it is also designated by the tempter: Snowest snowmobiliing magazine.

I got on these guy’s media mailing list years ago for some reason, probably back when I owned a sled. So every year about this time the first Snowest issue of the winter arrives in the mail. It’s not the most high quality pub in the world, as it reads more like an industry catalog than an independent voice. But Snowest has gotten better every year and this issue does include some decent snowmobile reviews with a bit of independent opinion snuck in to spice things up.

Snowmobiles are a common tool for much of Colorado’s backcountry skiing, especially if you’re looking to access high peaks and steep lines, or if you own or have access to a remote cabin and want to spend your time above the property, rather than below the place slogging in on a lengthy approach road. Thus, I’ve always wanted to replace our old Yamaha and fantasize every year about doing so. Snowest magazine doesn’t help. A new WildSnow sled probably isn’t happening this year. But as they say, even if I’m not ordering I can still look at the menu.

What caught my fancy is Snowest’s review of mountain 800s, the burly powerful climbing snowmobiles that are not only fun to ride, but are perfect for busting out Colorado powder when breaking trail on the access routes for Colorado alpine goals.

Snowwest’s editors favor the Polaris 800 Dragon RMK, and the thing looks amazing. But for an approach sled I always favor shopping by weight since they do get stuck and you end up muscling them around. While the Dragon’s 487 lbs is mighty light for such a mighty steed, anything less than that seems like a worthy option. Thus, it was interesting to read that that the Ski-Doo Summit Everest/X comes in at a svelte 435 pounds (146 inch track) . Not only that, but depending on your taste this is either the ugliest or coolest looking sled on the planet. I tend to think it’s on the cool side. Anyone got an opinion on that, while I dodge the bullets? Here is a photo of the Everest from Snowest:

Ski-Doo Summit Everest
Ugly or not, the power to weight ratio of this trim sled is something else, and for its size it’s probably quite easy to muscle around, especially from the rear. MSRP around $10,000 — hmmm, can we get a WildSnow season loaner?



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32 Responses to “Tempted (again) By The Dark Side”

  1. Lynn October 11th, 2007 8:42 am

    Watch it, we all know the Dark Side is home to the knuckle draggers. If you get a sled, I will help you test it out.

  2. Mark October 11th, 2007 9:45 am

    Snowmobiles? You’ve been blacklisted Lou! Kidding. If you get one and need a testing assistant let me know.

  3. Randonnee October 11th, 2007 9:50 am

    Snowmobiles allow quick access across miles of approach road to sweet unskied powder slopes here in rural North Central Washington. I personally do not yo-yo, I like to skitour after arriving at the objective. I am particularly fond of the fact that the masses of wetside (WA) bc skiers avoid places that they believe have snowmobile traffic, so that means more powder for me, my wife, and the Republican Randonnee Club!

    Since we interact with snowmobilers I have learned that most are just good folks, with a few misbehaving. When we snomo tow to ski or ride with skis strapped on, nearly all of the time snowmobilers are friendly and interested in us and like to chat. Snowmobilers are always helpful when our machine breaks down. On the other hand, sometimes skiers present a fairly negative attitude and sometimes will not even speak when we pass them with skis and snomos. Too bad, because when I pass friendly skiers slogging up a road to get to the goods, I may offer them a quick tow as I have several times.

    In anticipation of the snomo-haters frowns and comments, I share a thought. It would appear that snomo-haters seem to think that it is acceptable and not killing the earth to drive in a car across mountain passes for hours in a day just to go ski touring. However it would appear at times that the same seem to think it is a heinous offense if someone rides a snowmobile an hour a day to get to the goods for ski touring.

    Looking forward to many good days ski touring from the snowmobile TAV!

  4. Lou October 11th, 2007 9:59 am

    Actually, while this sled is somewhat of a fantasy I could see buying a 4-stroke in more of a touring model, with a 2-up seat, more cargo rack, etc. The 4 strokes have gotten quite nice. They’re quiet, pollute less, excellent engineering.

  5. Dostie October 11th, 2007 10:53 am

    Guess it’s time to make good on my ages old threat to do a heli review. I mean, if Lou can review ‘biles (you didn’t, but this is dangerously close) 😉 I think it’s high time to go the limit and consider the ultimate personal access tool…your own personal A-star!!!

  6. Andrew October 11th, 2007 11:11 am

    I think they look a lot sexier on paper than they do high-marking a line I just hiked three hours to get to on designated Wilderness land!

  7. DV October 11th, 2007 11:34 am

    Question: when will backcountry skiing be deemed incompatible with US laws governing wilderness (that rando boot and binder certainly is a ‘mechanical’ device, similar to wheels and gears on a bicycle) and if we are all using snowmobiles to access our wilderness stashes, how much quicker will backcountry skiing be outlawed thanks to our 2 or 4-stroke appendages?

    All I’m sayin’ is advocating for or even suggesting that motorized use is OK, then we as skinners and lift averting snow sliders are asking for heaps of trouble, mostly by associating with bubbleheads.

  8. Lou October 11th, 2007 11:41 am

    Andrew, I can only agree.

    DV, I’ve always wondered the same thing. The definition of “mechanized” could even include an artificial limb. A while ago, when they outlawed bicycles in legal wilderness, that same ruling outlawed wheel chairs. They eventually made an exception for wheel chairs. But what if a person has bad knees and can ride a bicycle but not easily walk? The whole thing is a human construct that’s really a house of cards.

  9. howie October 11th, 2007 12:11 pm

    Seems like a call to Yamaha’s PR agency is in order for a deeper take, no?


  10. Kydan October 11th, 2007 1:39 pm


    we have gotten new sleds every year for nearly as long as I can remember. It is largely because of this that I have gotten into Backcountry skiing. Yet, since being around sleds for all my childhood, I have a hard time accepting the somewhat dominate sled-hating attitude found in the BC scene (correct me if I am wrong, still just getting into this really). Although I do try do be enviromentally friendly in many aspects of my life, the time saving abilities of a sled to get to my private powder stash, instead of a 7 mile slog, allows me to take my early morning runs at 11,000 feet and really enjoy my sport before heading to school and work something that otherwise would require vast lifestyle changes to make the drive up to LCC and get to easy access trailheads at a significantly earlier (or later depending on your frame of reference 🙂 ) time of day.

    One thing I do find interesting about Utah is that where ever sleds are allowed, I almost NEVER find any sort of BC skiiers. Ironically, I never cross a sled track, let alone my own. Most the time I dont even see anyone else. So although many people complain about sledders high marking their terrain etc etc, there is PLENTY of amazing terrain that sledders either dont want to get to, because supposedly easier accessed terrain, or dont even know about because they dont explore beyond what they know.

    Anyways, dont know why exactly I went off on that rant, but I like my sleds, I try to respect all groups on the mountain, including those bigger than me (WPG flies in my private stash sometimes unfortunatly). There is a time and place for all ways of getting up a mountain, and I think sled assisted is just fine for a vast portion of the backcountry (in terms of acres).

    FYI, we have gotten the Ski-Doo Summit Everest/X for the last few seasons and have really enjoyed them. The fact that I can be towed up a 40 degree slope that runs a good 300 yards or more is quite impressive. We have yet to find any reasonable terrain that we havent conquered. However, they arnt extreamly friendly of hooking skis onto. they use aluminum tabs that line the sides, many of which were bent down by the thrashing around, esp. in the late season when you they the heavy rollers on the major canyon trails. They are great machines!


  11. Andrew October 11th, 2007 1:46 pm

    Great idea there Mr. Doiste. You could follow it up with a review of high-powered backcountry rifles. 🙂

  12. Lou October 11th, 2007 1:53 pm

    Howie, shoot, those guys just resigned their Yamaha account as Yahmaha will be doing their PR internally. I guess I’ll have to give Ski-Doo a call and see if they like bloggers (grin). But then, it might be better if I just went for a bicycle ride and did my cardio.

  13. Lou October 11th, 2007 2:02 pm

    Kydan, thanks for the rant. We’ve got the space. And yeah, I’ve always lusted after the Summit ever since the first ones came out so many years ago.

  14. Jay J October 11th, 2007 4:27 pm

    Lou – don’t do it!! For the sake of the world, the wilderness, the memory of our mentor Paul Petzoldt – DON’T DO IT!!
    Don’t go over to the Dark Side completely. I’ll give you leeway, due to your physically trashed body past – but don’t go over all the way!

  15. Joel October 11th, 2007 4:29 pm

    snowmobiles do the trick and every now and then I’ll do the snomo/ski combo. I tried the 4 strokes this spring near steamboat, and they suck just as bad as 2 strokes. Or at least, I sucked just as many fumes down my lungs. They’re less polluting, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when your being towed behind one. Folks say they’re quieter than 2 strokes, but they sure seem awful loud to me. Yuk!

  16. Randonnee October 11th, 2007 4:40 pm

    Hooray for snowmobiles, helicopters and high powered rifles!

    US Citizens may ride snowmobiles across public lands! My observation is confirmed above, that the snomo-hater bc skiers avoid snomo-lawful areas. Hooray for us snowmo-skiers! The common US citizen also may lawfully hunt and shoot animals for meat with their high-powered rifle! God has Blessed America, indeed.

    I do leave the high-powered rifle in the closet when I go randonnee skiing and opt for lighter and more compact weaponry : )}

    Actually I am a Ski Doo Tundra devotee, I own two of them. I use them usually as TAVs, I like the light weight and simplicity. The other snowmobilers are quite amused to see my little 250cc motor low- geared tractors dragging skiers or a big sled easily. My first Tundra was purchased new in 1989 when I was a bc skier and a fur trapper. That ’89 Tundra motor has been rebuilt twice, and I continue to use it.

  17. barry October 11th, 2007 7:11 pm

    I’m at least partly with Randonnee. I own many high power rifles, I eat meat, therefore, I don’t mind hunting. Mostly I’m a big fan of Tundras, I only wish I could find one to buy. I think they are the best compromise for access. I’m actually surprised the go-lite in Lou isn’t leaning more towards a Tundra.
    Finally, even though I’ve been roundly criticized for it, I think that plowing more winter roads and allowing access to non motorized backcountry areas would greatly decrease the conflict between snowmobiles and skiers.

  18. Lou October 11th, 2007 8:49 pm

    Jay, don’t worry, when I snowmobile it’s pretty minimal in the greater scheme of our backcountry activities. And we won’t be buying a sled any time soon, as that money needs to pay for some big trips and an even bigger college (grin). But like I said, it’s fun to look at the menu.

  19. Randonnee October 11th, 2007 10:03 pm

    FYI, check out DOOTalk.com. Aside from Ski Doo information it has forums including the different models of Ski Doo and one about Tundras. There are a few TR postings including an interesting one about a long trip on Tundra snowmobiles.

  20. Rando Swede October 11th, 2007 10:42 pm

    To truly argue about snowmobile access you must live in a house built from local, sustainably grown and harvested materials that is only powered by wind turbines manufactured by highly educated subsistence farming, native peoples working in solar powered factories.

    The only purists are skiing from town!

  21. yurtmiester October 11th, 2007 11:27 pm

    hello people,
    All I wanted to know, which is best set-up for earn your turn access.
    Some road grade and STEEP mining roads, and a little off-track shredding. So far, I’ve been pointed to longtracks 160″ plus. How about 4-stroke vs. 2 stroke or Yamaha vs. SkiDoo. Brand new vs. used? HELP I’m overwelhmed…..What’s the ticket?

  22. kevin October 12th, 2007 12:30 am

    I like this web site

  23. Lou October 12th, 2007 6:06 am

    The Summit just seems so high tech and burly and thus attractive. But you guys are right, the Ski-Doo Skandic Tundra models are definitely an option — especially the one with reverse.

    BTW, in terms of ethics it’s interesting to me how cavalier we are about flitting all over the globe in commercial jets, and enjoying ski movies that are basically re-baked heli skiing, then we wonder about having and using a personal snowmobile. In reality, I’d think a person who owns and rides a snowmobile for access (minimal mileage as opposed to recreational riding) has a lower carbon footprint than a person who flies up to Canada in a passenger jet for a hut vacation that uses a helicopter for access. Also, least we forget, just plant a few trees in your yard and buy some carbon offsets, then do what you want and laugh at the critics!

  24. EZE October 12th, 2007 9:14 am


    Snowmo ethics question-just curious about your opinion. For many years now we’ve been leading an annual trip to various 10th Mountain huts. Our group does it a little different than some other folks-we usually do a 2 or 3 night trip but stay at the same hut. This allows plenty of time to explore the surrounding ski terrain and ususally includes several longer treks to locate the best turns. A few years ago, we determined that if we use a couple of snowmos with trailers, we can get a lot more high quality food, beer, etc. to the hut with less effort. Folks still carry their personal stuff, safety gear, etc. but this allows for a lighter load and quicker trip to the hut. The end result is more energy to get out and party in the pow.

    We are aware that many people might frown upon this method of accessing the huts. We always book the entire hut so as not to offend other users. We take 2 sleds, park them outside of the non-motorized boundry, and haul the gear to the hut (this has resulted in some big hauls at certain huts!). Not one time have the sleds been used for yo-yo or any other purpose while at the hut: they remain parked until time to go home.

    We’ve given this a lot of thought and discussion, and are comfortable with the decision to use the sleds as outlined. One point I typically make is what is the difference between this winter method vs. the popular summer method of using a 4×4 support vehicle for mountain bike hut trips? One argument against is that the snowmo trail might lead other people to motor closer to the hut; however, in almost every case we’ve been able to use exisiting snowmo tracks (often different route than skinners are taking).

    Curious what your take would be.

    Thanks, EZE

  25. Lou October 12th, 2007 9:47 am

    Hi EZE, while 10th Mountain Huts as a business is very uncomfortable with this type of hut use, it is totally legal and definitely done by various people. The key is using the designated snowmobile trails and parking the sled outside the non-motorized area designated around the huts. Fact is, they chose to build many of the huts on snowmobile routes, so reality strikes. My take is that hauling stuff to a hut with snowmachine is fine if done with the care and thought to appropriate behaviour that you guys are using. What’s bogus is when a group of mellow folks is using the hut, having carried up all their own gear etc., and rowdy group shows up with loads of food, beer and junk they hauled up with snomobiles, then they proceed to party all night. By renting the whole hut you’ve eliminated that issue and that’s commendable, but other should take note. Sensitivity is key with all this.

    In the end, if you do show up having hauled junk with snowmobile, and others are using the hut, I’d say the minimum standard of behavior would be to share your beer! But the best method is just to rent the whole hut and only use the snowmobile on legal terrain, in that case, no harm no foul — don’t ask don’t tell, etc. etc.

    By the way, 10th mountain’s solution to this is to as much as possible enlarge the non-motorzed areas around the huts. So watch out how many 6-packs you haul, you might have to leave some overnight on your trailer and who knows what’ll happen to your expensive imported suds in that case. Abandoned beer on a snowmobile trailer? I’d say that’s fair game.

  26. EZE October 12th, 2007 10:01 am

    Thanks for the opinion Lou. We actually started renting the entire hut before we started the snowmo program just to be certain that we not offending other users. Some of us take additional trips each year where there are other users-no snowmos, and of course sensitive as you say.

    We have occasionaly overpacked on the beer, and I agree-fair game! One other note: while there are usually some imported suds brought along, you’d be surprised how well good old PBR goes down!

    Thanks, EZE

  27. Randonnee October 12th, 2007 10:52 am

    As stated above, great website. There is clearly good exchange of information without the untoward interference of certain fanatics.

    In regard to snowmobiles, I have owned and ridden only my 1989 Tundra and 1996 Tundra II. The Tundra has advantages in regard to simplicity, economy, and is probably purely suited to the purpose of simple transportation. I paid $1848 new for my ’89. Last year I found online the ’96 with one season of use for $1000 last year and drove 10 hrs. roundtrip as soon as I could to buy it.

    I do understand that if I did ride a new Summit or another of the fabulous machines that I could be hooked quickly. That would be another hobby to spend money, and could lead to ER visits. That would be an unwise scenario for this middle-aged guy who is supporting a family.

    That said, I must say that my estimation and experience is that it is much easier on my back and patience to get “unstuck” with my Tundra. The Tundra is among the lighest adult-sized snowmobiles. I have on occasion stopped to help a rider who has stuck one of the admittedly fabulous fast and powerful Summit or other nice snowmobile, and it seems to become a two-man job quickly or a hard job. My experience has been confirmed by reading the Forum entries from trappers up north that the Tundra excels in going slowly like a tractor and towing through tight terrain. I have towed five skiers uphill on a logging road, and have pulled big loaded sleds with my Tundra. Only for the past three seasons have I tried to climb anything and am pleasantly surprised. The Tundra is light and has slow, tractive power, and sort of just keeps going similar to my trials motorcycle. In my estimation, it climbs right up to the point of the angle of avalanche-hazard “sweet spot.” On winding USFS mountain roads, I notice that my speed on the Tundra keeps pace with those very nice powerful machines- it is sort of a question of where can one use all of that horsepower sometimes. High-marking on open terrain would be a thrilling use, clearly, of those powerful machines. As I see it, the limits of climbing and speed of my Tundra are like an engine governor for safety so that I am not tempted to do foolish things as in my youth. It is fine with me since I like to snowmobile to the start of pristine unroaded, unlogged terrain where I enjoy walking on skis in quiet solitude

  28. Rick October 12th, 2007 1:44 pm

    How funny, I am going tomorrow to buy a RMK 800 Dragon and I am sooo exited. To all the haters, I will be climbing and skiing all new mountains this year, you and the crowds have fun!

    I am a huge proponent for multi use trails, I think every one should respect each other in the mountains.

    For some reason alot of BC skiers/tourers/hikers and the most judgemental, bitchy people on the planet. Its sad really, Id rather be smiling than crying, but thats just me.

  29. Dave Carver October 12th, 2007 3:58 pm

    Talk about great minds and parallel tracks!

    Last year I was recovering from knee surgery and when it came time for the family hut trip, I was not about to be left behind! I called around Leadville and, at long last, found a member of the local snowmobile club who was willing to give me a ride almost all of the way to Uncle Buds.
    I was a bit sheepish since I’ve had some judgement about the machines and their riders in the past. Long story short, we had a great time riding together and everyone else appreciated their lighter packs since we hauled a sled full of gear and food up.
    I have changed my attitude.
    Now we’re planning to move to the Roaring Fork and those infernal machines really do seem to make sense for those long approaches. Lou, you could write a guide book to hybrid skiing in Colorado!

  30. Adam Olson October 15th, 2007 2:38 pm

    Im coming into this conversation late because I’ve been out elk hunting all weekend!

    “All the good snow is on the Dark Side!”

    I am VERY fond of my new (last year) Yamaha Mountain Vector. 166″ track, 973 cc, 4 stroke beast! I will give anybody who asks a ride. It will TOW 3. Most of the time the people we pass skiing are too bitter and intolerant to even say hi. It is very much a tool added to my BC gear. I also see it as an ambulance under the right circumstances.

    My first sled was a Yamaha Exciter II. This machine performed flawlessly. Thus the upgrade to the Mountain Vector. It weighs approx. 485 lbs w/ all fluids and a full tank of gas. I would recommend reverse as an option you can purchase. W/ reverse I do not think this sled will stay stuck for long. Poor driving seems to be the reason most people get stuck in the first place.

    While Im out riding, I just remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you, right? Nothing you do will make that poor bitter soul you pass, see you in any better light.

    P.S. I shot and harvested my first bull (4X5) last year with my 7mm and my Mountain Vector!

  31. Josh October 16th, 2007 2:37 pm

    Ride a sled and the BC purists hate you, take your sled out with skis and the sledders look at you like your an idiot. Use modern freeheel gear, and snowboard kids tell you your bindings are broken, and the crusty old pine-tar guys ask where you were when it was leather and 3 pins. Just grab the skis, your partner, the sleds, and go far off into those remote powder laden hills where no pinheads, snowmotards, labrador retrievers, or skin-trail-ettiquette-police can see or hear you. Zip up your collar, smile, and enjoy!

  32. Bdc October 17th, 2007 9:38 pm

    Hey Lou: There is one significant flaw with the latest generation Summit – in Ski-Doos ever increasing quest to position the rider forward, the “footholds” as well are too far forward resulting in a less than athletic stance which makes riding standing up harder to do, and you should be standing virtually all the time riding in the mountains. So, look for a good older REV platform (’04 or later) and don’t worry about the weight difference. By the way, check out Cheetah Factory Racing for some good sled racks to carry skis and other gear, although I am sure they would undergo some “Dawson modifications”

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