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West Report: Mountain Short Tracks Get Wild!

We tested the 2018 short-track mountain sleds including the Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146, the Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country 141 and the Polaris 800 SKS 146
Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146
Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146 Everything we were looking for in a crossover sled. Tame when you want it to be, insane if you allow it to be.
Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146 Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country 141 Polaris 800 SKS 146
The solidifying of the extreme crossover sleds, or short-track mountain sleds, as a major segment has happened. These new sleds are more functional in the mountains than ever, and equipped to handle both trails and the steep and deep terrain with ease. They are a riot!

◆ The first ‘fun test’!
When our editor asked me to test these sleds I sheepishly agreed, all the while knowing how much fun I would have. Riding mountain sleds much of the time typically means the shortest track length you encounter during the season is a 150+ inches. To have the opportunity to ride and compare more short track sleds was something the Mountain Team (TTRP) looked forward to!

It does not take a genius to figure out that if you have a shorter track you have less mass to turn. The same 800+cc engine that turns a 170-class track is going to spin the shorter track much faster and easier. How much faster? When we first put the Polaris SKS 800 146 and the Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146 on a hill side by side (there was about a foot of fresh snow), our test riders Lonnie and Kevin received an express backward ticket. The combined track speed and shorter track not only hooked up, but it put the guys in the backseat.

On the second take, Kevin and Lonnie adjusted their position on the sleds, standing further forward and leaning over the handlebars. The results were a bit different for the 146 SKS, it came straight up, leveled out, and took off. The SP came straight up, but Kevin went in the backseat again. With more CCs than the SKS, the SP was like an untamed stallion ready to take off.

Third try was the charm. Kevin stuck the posture correctly and rode the bad-boy Ski-Doo like it wanted to be ridden. From my perspective, it looked like a missile launch. I kid you not, there was daylight under the track when it came out of the hole and took off like a bat out of hell. Yes, that is the best way to describe the 146 Summit SP. Not only is it light and short, but it is ready to play on any terrain you want to throw at it.

We watched all these sleds go places we would have never imagined possible. Many times, we were laughing in disbelief that the shorter tracks were actually keeping in line with the longer tracks, going to the same places. Keep in mind, however, the shorter tracks were more of a rodeo to get there since you were typically riding on the back foot of the track in order to get traction all the way up the hill.

There is a beautifully wild charm to these crossover mountain sleds. You get to tread with relative ease in both the trail and mountain world. The shorter track and lug options make it comfortable on the trail but the 800cc engine makes climbing opportunistic. The suspension and chassis are set up for a broader range of riding. The ski stance is wider than the mountain sleds (typically around 40 inches, while the majority of mountain sleds come stock at 36 inches) and a little heavier with a more comfortable seat. They are built a little more solid on average, which makes taking them off drops and jumps easier. In addition, the shorter track is more controllable in the air off a big hit.

The great thing about the 80/20 crossovers (80% off-trail, 20% on-trail) is the customization. There are options for a narrower front end and longer lug. This makes it possible to easily adjust or “trick” your sled out for the ideal ride.
2018 Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146
◆ Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 146
The 850 engine is really what sends this sled to the next level. Out of the box, this sled feels almost like a seamless turbo. You could swear sometimes that you were riding one of its bigger brother Summit sleds on the mountain, but with the added benefit of riding well on the trail. Of all the crossovers we kept saying, “We have got to get one of these!” It was the best trail machine by far.

The Summit SP 146 in the Gen 4 platform, has the Pdrive primary clutch, tMotion pivoting rear suspension and the Powdermax light track with FlexEdge technology. You can get it with the 2.5-inch or the 3-inch lug and you also can order it with the new SHOT starting system, which we highly recommend for anyone riding in the mountains. (More on SHOT in our October 2017 Buyer’s Guide Issue, pg. 74.) If you are looking for a powerhouse that is exciting to ride, but tame when you need it to be, this is the sled for you.
2018 Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country 141
Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country 141 The fun factor of this sled is off the charts.
◆ Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country 141
While this was the shortest track length we rode of the crossovers, it did not fail to perform. The Arctic Cat XF 8000 High Country had a lug length of 2.25-inches and a 3-inch pitch. However, no matter the length, the Power Claw track always hooked up astoundingly well in all types of snow conditions.

Despite the shorter track and lug length, this machine took us everywhere we wanted to go. As expected, we struggled in some of the deeper, steep climbs, but we still got there with positive track speed. The fun factor was off the charts with the shorter track. If you are thinking about trying tricks such as re-entries and large jumps, this one is for you. The suspension was extremely capable with the FOX 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks, which were easy to adjust. The adjustability also extended to the telescoping mountain handlebar, making this sled easy to personalize to the rider and the terrain.
2018 Polaris 800 SKS 146
Polaris 800 SKS 146 Fully capable and fully fun. This is a home run crossover.
◆ Polaris SKS 800 146
This was one of the most fun sleds I have ever been on for a variety of reasons. It handled incredibly well down the trail and it was fast, keeping within a sled length of the 850 at all times, even with less power. It felt stable under foot with the wider ski stance. The Walker Evans suspension was spot-on for my 175 pounds and the seat was the most comfortable of all the crossovers we rode.

The deep snow was never a problem on the SKS, shooting to the top of any hill quickly like its longer-tracked mountain sled RMK brethren. With the wider ski stance and more rigid body it was easy to pull up on edge and boondock. And, with the Axys chassis, the narrow body never “paneled out.”

At times, the machine dared you to push it harder just to prove it was capable of whatever you threw its way. I felt the most relaxed on this sled as it did not fight me. It felt like a true crossover, with everything you expect from a good trail sled and everything you like about a mountain sled. A solid home run for a short-track extreme crossover.
◆ Final thoughts
The 2018 extreme crossovers are very well suited for the mountains. The advances in sled tech with lighter and narrower chassis, to better track and lugs make these sleds a viable option for backcountry riding. In the future, this 140-inch class of sleds will be much more than the fun little niche it once was. As more people see what these machines are capable of, it will be a formidable group in the steeper terrain. I would love to see what one of these would be like with a turbo on it!
LonnieThompson
KevinThompson
Rider Impressions

Lonnie Thompson - The Summit SP’s 146-inch track said to me “I’m a lame trail sled.” But once on the sled it argued, “Really? Watch this!” Of all the 2018 sleds we test rode, the Summit 146 left a huge impression. The 36-inch front end runs through the tight twisted roads decent, and it’s only not fast enough for the serious trail guys.

The Polaris SKS 146 has more in common with a mountain sled than a trail sled. The mountain front end makes it predictable in off trail situations. There is a big debate over handlebars among backcountry riders right now. The lay down handle bars may be what Polaris needs to coerce some yellow-blooded creatures to hold them at higher regard, or maybe even jump ship.

The Arctic Cat Highcountry 141 is more equipped for off-trail than on. Using the ProClimb chassis and the mountain front suspension and spindles make for a very agile sled that is well suited to boondocking. It is also one of the few models that still have the adjustable telescoping bars. It also has the more open footwell to resist snow build up.


Kevin Thompson
- The Ski-Doo Summit 146 SP was just fun! It rips, is fast, responsive, flickable, and will flat get down the trail. It’s a blast to ride for a true crossover sled, but it will work the powder too. Fun factor is a 10! The suspension on the trail is fantastic, and works well in the corners and stutter bumps. Tree Boondocking and holding side hills is easy. It can turn on a dime and give you nine cents change.

The Polaris 146 SKS is responsive, fast, and feels small. The first thing I noticed about the SKS is I got my boot stuck in the boot area and when I went to hop over the other side of the sled my foot was hung up. The wider front end is great on the trails. It is stable and great for high speed corners, but a little harder to pull a side-hill on. There is great storage on the Polaris and the adjustable shocks are a great feature.

The Arctic Cat High Country 141 had a crisp feel when you hit the throttle, good hook up, and acceleration was quick. It felt like it hugged the trail and the corners. The HC was well balanced, and when getting into the trees and the fresh powder it was easy to get it to do what I wanted, but like the Polaris, my boot got stuck in the foot loop. Clutching is spot-on and the RPMs made this sled very responsive. These shorter sleds are just a hoot to ride and if you’re into trails and boondocking then these are the sleds to look at.
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