What is the EXO Sled? We Ride it and Find Out | Mountain Sledder
Technology
February 10th, 2022
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What is the EXO Sled? We Ride it and Find Out

We’d seen video clips here and there of the EXO Sled, and it was enough to pique our curiosity but not provide many solid answers. What is this one ski snowmobile mod? What does it feel like to ride? Who is it for? These were the questions we hoped to answer when we arranged to meet up with EXO Sled developer and CEO, Dave Proulx.

Naturally, we longed to experience the EXO Sled in the deep snow and the mountains, where we live and ride. That desire began to take shape when Dave reached out to let us know that he would be out west this winter with a couple of demo EXO Sleds in tow.

We agreed to meet with Dave in early January near our hometown of Golden, British Columbia.

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Off to a Bad Start

Unfortunately, our plans were nearly dashed when Dave, as he was driving across Canada trailering two new demo sleds outfitted with EXO Sled kits, was struck from behind by a semi-truck at a stop light in Winnipeg. Dave’s truck and trailer were both written-off in the collision and the sleds inside sustained damage as well.

Undeterred, Dave managed to find a place to store his damaged property and tools and proceeded to rent a truck and trailer, load up the sleds and carry on with minimal delay.

Dave stopped again in Calgary to pick up his friend and colleague, Simon Filion, who had helped with some revisions of the EXO Sled kit. In Calgary, the two made repairs to the sleds, installed new kits and body panels, and continued west with only a day lost.

Riding the EXO Sled in Sicamous

We adjusted our plans to meet in Sicamous, British Columbia instead to ride at Blue Lake for the day.

Joining myself, Dave and Simon for the day was Steve Starkey, an EXO Sled owner, who resides in the Sicamous area.

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Like a snow bike, loading and unloading the EXO Sled is made easier by using a set of wheels designed specifically for that purpose.

What is the EXO Sled?

The EXO Sled is a bolt-on kit that significantly changes the handling characteristics of a snowmobile by converting it from a two-ski independent front suspension into one a single, large ski suspension setup.

In a nutshell, the balance point is centralized, which allows the vehicle to cross slopes easily without being pushed downhill or tipping over, and allows the vehicle to carve turns more like a dirt bike.

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What does the EXO Sled feel like to ride?

The video below captures the best insight into my experience riding the EXO Sled, as it happens. Dave also explains some of the thought process that went into the development of the kit and how it works.

The Trail

On trail, the EXO Sled was surprisingly easy to ride in the soft groomed conditions we had on the day. I expected some squirrely-ness on the groomed trail, and to be sure there was some, but the kit was actually pretty confidence inspiring. After a few minutes I was zipping along quite comfortably doing around 60 km/h.

There was a bit of learning curve to taking the corners. The EXO Sled can be tipped quite far before it will go over—farther than you’d think. Mastering the lean angle and how to control it with weight and steering was not something that I perfected by any means. I think the angle you can take into the corners is different than what you’d expect if you’re used to riding a motorcycle, so I didn’t quite get to the point where I felt I could fully trust it after only 10 minutes or so on the trail. But my feeling was that it wouldn’t take long to dial it in, and I could see how a rider with a little more experience could have some serious fun rallying the berms.

As a point of reference for what experienced riders can do, the guys I was with showed no problems keeping the pace up around 80-90 km/h and faster on the groomed stuff.

Like on a snow bike, I’m sure that whooped out trails and icy conditions are not that fun to navigate, but on the soft, flat groomed trail we had at Blue Lake that day, I felt quite comfortable cruising along the straights and easy turns as a total rookie noob.

The Mountain

The “off trail” experience differs I suppose depending on whether you are coming from a snowmobile or a snow bike background. I’m a sledder and that’s what I feel most comfortable doing. As mentioned in the video, my snow bike experience is limited to a handful of days.

In my short experience, I feel confident saying that the EXO Sled is a legitimate hybrid between a snowmobile and a snow bike.

The most compelling argument I can offer for how well it works comes not from my own experience riding, but from watching Dave’s friend Simon ride the EXO Sled at Blue Lake. Simon is exclusively a trail rider from out East, who before this trip had never ridden in the mountains before. The day we all rode together was at the same time Simon’s third day riding mountains and third day ever riding the EXO Sled.

At several points throughout the day, I watched Simon sidehill with ease through off-camber, choppy, crappy snow that required more effort than I prefer to expel to traverse on the stock 2021 Polaris RMK KHAOS I was riding that day. This is not a shot at the capability of the KHAOS, which is nearly the perfect tool for such conditions (secondly only to the PRO RMK). Or my own riding ability for that matter. This is to describe how a total beginner like Simon could easily and enjoyable navigate terrain and snow conditions that a competent rider (with almost 20 years of mountain riding experience) was forced to work at and without much enjoyment on a sled.

So in terms of how the EXO Sled performs in the hands of someone with lots of experience riding it and doing so in more technical terrain, I can’t say because my own experience is limited to a few sessions that day. But I can tell you that it was quick to learn, fun in the open terrain and a pleasure to ride through both fresh snow and the hard, tracked up and mixed powder slopes that I would normally avoid on my snowmobile.

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Stock rails can be used with the EXO Sled kit; however, performance is improved with the EXO rails, which adjust the weight distribution to bring the ski pressure closer to stock sled specification and make the EXO Sled easier to handle.

Who is EXO Sled for?

I think Dave said it best when he described his reasons for developing the EXO Sled in the first place, well before he made the move to commercialize the kit.

As a former Snowhawk owner and snow bike enthusiast, Dave enjoyed the handling and experiece of riding those single ski machines in the snow. But over time, he grew tired of dealing with the hassles associated with those machines. Let’s face it, the Snowhawk was rudimentary compared to today’s sleds and not particularly user-friendly.

And while dirt bikes have evolved into near perfection, they simply aren’t designed to be used in the cold and snow. They require a lot of maintenance, and even more modification to make them perform their best in cold and snowy conditions when outfitted with a snow bike kit.

The other issue is a lack of power. For a snow bike (depending on the model of donor bike of course), horsepower output is going to be somewhere south of 60 horsepower at sea level at best. Compare that to the 165+ horsepower output of a modern sled and a much bigger traction footprint, and that’s a pretty substantial difference in get-up-and-dance.

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Dave’s goal was to build a machine with the handling characteristics of a single-ski machine like the Snowhawk or a snow bike, but with the cold-weather readiness, reliability, ease of use and power of a modern fuel-injected 2-stroke snowmobile.

So our question of who the EXO Sled is for is answered by the man who developed it to solve his own dilemma—one that Dave feels many other riders might also face.

Does that mean it’s right for you? Like every vehicle we test ride—whether that’s a new snowmobile, a snow bike or this hybrid—the best we can do is share our own experience with you and hope that it helps inform you in some way.

Only you can answer that question, and the best way to do that is to try it for yourself!

 

– PW