Opinion
May 15th, 2019
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What Is the Future of Mountain Snowmobile Technology?

Mountain sleds have come a long way in the last 15 years.

In that time, they’ve evolved from glorified trail sleds into specialized, mountain-slaying weapons. But just when sledders might begin to wonder what room could possibly be left for improvement, the manufacturers are still finding small changes that have a big impact on performance.

The current state of innovation raises a host of questions. Where is snowmobile technology heading? Has it reached the apex of rapid advancement? Will there be measured refinement only from here on out? Or is there still potential for groundbreaking advancement to come?

What Is the Future of Mountain Snowmobile Technology?

If you’d previously thought there was nowhere left to go, take a look at the motorcycle world. Motorcycles are by far more established than snowmobiles—to an almost institutional degree. But if you question what could possibly be done to alter the motorcycle landscape, have a look at what Yamaha has produced this year with the Yamaha Niken. It’s a novel concept for a motorcycle: a leaning, multi-wheel chassis. Could a similar pivoting suspension technology find useful application in a mountain sled?

Certainly there is still room for powerplant advancement. We’ve seen that in recent years from each of the Big Four manufacturers—including a new 850 Patriot engine from Polaris and a 600R second generation E-TEC from BRP. And until we’re riding Star Wars-esque speeder bikes powered by dilithium crystals, the possibilities remain for something completely different.

For example, starting this year, Taiga Motors is taking deposits on the first-ever production electric snowmobile. Now, it would be reasonable to conclude that battery-powered electric technology won’t be able to compete with the practical advantages of the internal combustion engine in the immediate future. But is it possible—nay, likely even—that a manufacturer of electric snowmobiles might someday be the number one player in the industry? You’ve got to imagine that it is.

 

 

Alongside engine considerations, chassis refinement has been a major focus of mountain sled design for the last few years. This has led to an increasingly more narrow and upright profile that, to a degree, mimics the form of a snow bike. And yet, while snow bikes remain fundamentally different from snowmobiles in design and function, they do provide a similar backcountry experience. Will there someday be a snow bike/snowmobile hybrid that offers the ultimate experience? The best of both worlds? What will that look like?

Future of Mountain Snowmobile Technology Featured

Uncharted Territory

There are a few things we do know for certain. The mountains won’t change in our lifetime. But the way that we access and enjoy them will. And while it’s hard to guess what the future of snowmobile technology might be, it feels like there has never been more possibility.

 

– PG