Opinion
November 24th, 2020
Share

What I Choose To Ride and Why

I have been lucky enough to ride for Ski-Doo as a brand ambassador for over 10 years now, and the technology the designers and engineers have put into the machines over those years is awe-inspiring. Getting to see it from all angles and to ride them first in some cases has been a dream come true for me.

However, in my time promoting Ski-Doo, there has been a small percentage of people out there who think we, as brand ambassadors, are told what to say, what to ride and what to tell others. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

Let me go on record and say that I have the freedom to choose to ride any model and configuration of snowmobile Ski-Doo makes. So, since I’ve been asked what snowmobile I choose to ride and why I make that choice, I thought I’d tell you here.

What I Choose To Ride and Why?

I have always been a pretty opened-minded person. But, like many people, I can sometimes fall back into old ways of doing things. However when I do step outside my comfort zone and ask myself why I am resisting, the answer usually pushes me forward. The funny thing is that whenever I have done this, there has almost always been a big reward!

So let me explain why I choose to ride the sleds that I currently do.

Track Length

My first track size was a 151”, however I have since ridden 146, 154, 163, 165, 174 and 175 inch tracks in the more than 25 sleds I have owned.

I used to be of the mindset that a 154” track is all you need. That track length has clearly been the most popular size for a mountain sled, although that is changing. I remember when tMotion came out and up until then I had always ridden 154s. Carl Kuster was the one to push me into to a 163, as we knew at the time the 174 was coming next.

There are two types of riders…those who spin the track and those who get traction. You want to be the rider who gets traction.
– Carl Kuster

I was fully resisting, but I went for it anyway on his advice. I remember riding the 163 for the first time at Grizzly Lodge with over a meter of fresh snow, and I could not believe what I was doing and where I was going! I rode that machine every day and did not even start my 154 until March of that year. Ever since then I have been on the longest track machines available.

Now, I really don’t care what you choose to ride but unfortunately our sport is full of ego champs who will try to tell you that you’re rad if you ride a 154 and old or crappy if you ride a 175. Sadly many people listen to those types and they end up getting the wrong machine for themselves. I usually use the big mountain skiers as an example; are they using shorter skis, or longer ones? The answer is longer, and they are skiing aggressively!

What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo Expert 175 154_
154, 175 or something in between—ultimately, it's your choice.

I choose the 175 as my go-to sled as it allows me to get where I want to go on the deepest days (fortunately for me I ride mostly in deep pow). But another reason is that I love to sled ski/board and it gets me and my riding buddy to those top peaks easier.

If I felt that the 175” inhibited my riding in any way I would choose something shorter, but after riding every size track each year, I always go back to the 175. I just find it better in every situation. Now, I am not a big jumper or radical rider, but someone who is and one of the best riders in the world is Carl Kuster—and the only sled he rides has a 175” track.

So choose what feels right to you, but get out on demo rides, ride your buddy’s sled or ask people if you are thinking of going longer. You might love it like I did!

Turbo vs. Naturally-aspirated

I have seen and ridden amongst plenty of sleds with aftermarket turbos over the years. It is a rare occasion where I have seen them running perfectly and also by riders who actually can ride them well. For the most part, the sled was taking these guys for a ride—not the other way around.

I’ve often asked guys with turbo builds about their idea of pull-and-go, which is what I want in a sled. This has generally led to extended conversations about what they’ve gone through to make it work. Hardly pull-and-go.

The truth is: if you buy an aftermarket turbo, it is expensive, it takes a lot to upkeep them running well, both in time and money, and really you need two sleds, one to ride when it’s down or you’re tuning it, and also one to ride when the conditions aren’t worth the turbo hassle.

So when I heard about the new Ski-Doo turbo sled, frankly, I was worried. Did I need it? Was it going to be a lot more expense in time and money? Would I be able to handle it? That was me falling back into my old mindset again.

What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo Expert Turbo_
There's not much visual distinction between the turbo and naturally-aspirated versions of the Summit X With Expert Package. Performance-wise however, that is a different story!

After the first pull, I was hooked. I could see why so many guys put up with the hassles to ride them, except this was different—no hassles, no clutching, no mixing fuel. It rides the same but when you need more power, it’s there. I was giggling like a little kid.

And after 2000 miles on it, I am still giggling! The best part is that in all those miles, all I have done is add 91 octane fuel and oil, two chaincase oil changes, and that’s it!

So the turbo vs naturally-aspirated question is: Is it worth it? Well, my answer to this is the fact that since I started riding the turbo in January 2020, I have not touched my naturally-aspirated sleds once! Seriously. Just like when I learned to embrace the longer track. The Ski-Doo turbo is better in every way. It’s easier to ride in every condition and just more fun, which is what it is all about.

Other Things To Consider

Sled buyers should look into the future and consider how long they plan to keep the machine. For example, will they have it for four to five years or longer, or are they going to flip it every year?

Do you plan to add suspension that you feel is better? In this case a Freeride (which is more expensive initially) makes more sense than an X model in the long run because it will save money over going with an aftermarket suspension option.

What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo Freeride_
The 2021 Ski-Doo Freeride model.
What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo Freeride Suspension_
If you're looking for high-end suspension, the Freeride might be the model for you.

Since we’re talking about mountain riding, let me quickly point out that the Ski-Doo Summit comes in SP, X and Freeride models. The X and Freeride come as spring-check only option and the SP is what you will find in dealers right now.

For me, my favourite sled is the X model. It is the lightest, has the most improvements and tech, and by spring-checking I get the longest and best warranty in the business.

So sit and write down what your plan is, what really matters to you and your riding style. And if it just comes down to a colour, always choose the one you want! Life is short and not worth not getting what your heart really tells ya!

What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo Summit X_
The Summit X is the lightest model, and has the most improvements and tech for the price.

Run Whatcha Brung

Every year sleds get better. This can be a big or small gain, but I have yet to see any machine from any manufacturer go backwards. While this is a good thing, it may feel to some that they always need to be spending money on the latest and greatest, but this is not always true.

Case in point: if something happened in my life and I was not able to afford a brand new sled, here’s what I would do. I would go out and find a 2015 or 2016 Ski-Doo XM with a 163” or 174” track, and be out there just as much as I am now, having just as much fun, sled skiing and tackling the deep. Plenty of people are doing this, saving a ton of money and having a blast doing what they love, and not comparing or looking at what they might not have. Now, that is inspiring to me!

You can be out sledding with a machine for 5-6 grand or 25 grand. Both can offer excitement, exploration and fun! I have been at both ends of that spectrum and when it comes down to it, it is all about being out there with your best buds having a blast. So whatever gets you out—and gets you out the most—is the right answer in my books!

What I Choose To Ride Ski-Doo 15 16 Summit_
You can find excellent value in a slightly older 2015 or 2016 Summit XM, which were standout years for reliability and durability.

If you have any questions on purchasing a Ski-Doo sled—new or used, turbo or naturally-aspirated, 154” or 175”—send them to me @davenorona on Instagram or @dave.norona on Facebook and I will give you my best as always!

 

– Dave