NOTE: This is a brief rundown of the 2018 Yamaha model lineup. Subscribers can view the full report, including more photos and our early riding impressions, by logging in below. You can also find it all in the Spring Issue of
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We need more snowmobilers. Everyone in this industry knows it, and now some of the players that matter most are doing something about it. Yamaha’s SnoScoot is back to invite a new generation to keep riding! Also, one of Yamaha’s full-size models also gets the latest in front suspension tech in its last year of production.
Finally, Yamaha didn’t forget that it is still the owner of the “Highest HP Sled” title, with a Sidewinder that is much more prevalent throughout the 2018 model year.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out the snowmobile industry could use an injection of young riders to keep our favorite pastime healthy for future generations.
That’s where Yamaha’s reinvented SnoScoot comes in. Designed in partnership with Arctic Cat (Get details on Cat’s ZR 200
), the SnoScoot harkens back to its roots in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, a time when Yamaha was top dog in the snowmobile manufacturing world. I can still remember my first ride on the original SnoScoot. It was a ride that ended quite abruptly with me parked at the base of a tree, with my cousin more worried about the sled than me (I was fine, thank you). Despite the crash, that SnoScoot was a sled that could easily hook young people into the sport.
You can probably argue the success or lack thereof for those early SnoScoots (built from 1988-1990) until your face turns a lovely shade of Yama-blue. What you can’t really argue is the impact it had on those who got a chance to ride them. That’s exactly what Yamaha is betting on with this go-round of the SnoScoot, and it’s hoping for a better outcome on the sales side than its attempt 30 model years ago.
Why will this SnoScoot be different? One has to think about where the industry was three decades ago compared to where it’s at today. Looking back through Yamaha’s media kits from the ‘80s and ‘90s, you’ll find a whole submarket titled “Family Snowmobile Line.” That was the perfect blueprint to grow a family through the sport of snowmobiling, offering stepping stones to larger more capable engines. A 250cc Bravo was a perfectly acceptable entry-level sled, so there wasn’t as much need for the SnoScoot of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Today’s snowmobilers have no “step-up program,” so to speak. Our kids today still learn on a Kitty Cat, graduate to a 120cc, but then sit on the sidelines or – best-case scenario – behind mom or dad. After a few years of that, many never return to the sport. That’s no way to grow an industry. Snowmobiling desperately needs something to keep kids engaged during years when there’s pressure to play other sports, join other activities, and play video games.
Plus, there’s a whole generation of 30-something-year-olds – the first kids to experience the fun of the original SnoScoot – who are now looking to raise active snowmobilers. (Hey, that’s me!) We’re ready for this, and so are the kids! Watch for the Spring Issue of American Snowmobiler with all the SnoScoot specs!
50 is techy
What would a Yamaha model release be without the OEM’s latest and greatest snowmobile technology? For MY18, Yamaha takes a stab at a new front suspension style that’s been subtly percolating on the edges of the snowmobile industry.
YRSS (Yamaha Reactive Suspension System) debuts on the 2018 50th Anniversary Edition Apex. What the heck is that, right? Basically, it’s a ski shock system that shares an enlarged piggyback chamber which is mounted above the clutch guard. The two main shock bodies are connected to the single piggyback chamber via hoses and share the shock damping capability between the two of them as required by the sled.
On paper, the biggest benefit that jumps out at you is cornering. The ability to pitch the sled in a corner means the inside ski will stay in contact with the snow longer, thus both skis will be contributing to steering the machine around a corner. The active roll damping will resist the sled’s desire to roll up on the outside ski in high-G cornering situations, keeping the roll center of the sled in a consistent spot. The sled will actually lean and lower its center of gravity. All this leads to the sled staying flatter in the corners with reduced steering effort from the rider.
How do you get it? This is an extremely interesting answer. You can only get the YRSS on the 50th Anniversary edition of the Yamaha Apex LE and Apex X-TX LE. That’s a spring-only buy. Here’s where it gets really interesting: this is the last model year of the Yamaha Apex. Yes, you read that right. The 2018 Apex is the last of its kind to be produced by Yamaha.
One last thing on the Apex LE: there’s also a new FOX Float Piggyback XV shock in the mono-shock rear skid. Upgrades from the 2017 shock include a larger air reservoir, added compression and rebound adjusters with the piggyback, and a more user-friendly quick-adjust knobs.
Viper keeps to the trails
Yamaha’s SR Viper is not leaving the trails anytime soon, but it is kissing its days in the mountains goodbye. So is the M-TX Phazer. MY2018 Vipers will only be available in trail lengths of 129 (R-TX) and 137 (L-TX) inches, as well as the 141-inch (X-TX) crossover length.
The only spring-buy Viper for MY18 is the L-TX LE, which gets the primo treatment with FOX QS3 Kashima-coated shocks all around, heated seat, goggle bag and super-low colored windshield, all neatly wrapped in a special 50th Anniversary edition red-and-white graphics scheme.
In-season Viper buyers will find a similar lineup to 2017, but there are a few changes to note. The Viper R-TX SE comes only in a minimalist value-buy – right down to the all-black graphics. (As of press time, there was no word what the actual cost of this “low-cost sport model” will be.) The no-frills package includes 1.5-inch HPG shocks, and a belt bag for storage. This same package will also be offered in the L-TX.
The other L-TX Viper model available for in-season buyers is the L-TX DX, which offers upgrades like a heated seat, a larger DX tunnel bag and a taller DX windshield. Plus, there’s a new grey/blue graphics package for 2018.
The last of the North American Viper offerings for 2018 is the X-TX SE, which has a 141x1.6-inch Cobra track spun around an uncoupled rear skid. It comes with a 42-inch-wide trail ski stance with FOX Float 3 shocks up front and in the rear track, and a 1.5 HPG center track shock. If you’re wondering about the Viper B-TX from 2017, it is still available in Europe, but not on our side of the pond.
Sidewinder climbs solo
The mountain spots vacated by the Viper’s exit are filled nicely by an expanded deep snow offering of Yamaha’s high-horsepower Sidewinders. The bottom line here is no secret: 120-130 HP is no longer enough in the mountains. You’ve got to have 160hp (or in Yamaha’s case, 200hp) or higher to compete and go where the rest of your riding crew can go.
Joining the Sidewinder M-TX SE 162 from 2017 are two more Sidewinder models in both the 162- and 153-inch lengths. The M-TX SE will also come in a 153, giving mountain consumers a total of six hill climbers to pick from.
Each trim level offers a different shock option from the FOX Float QS3 on spring-buy LE models to a your standard HPG shock packages on your standard mountain offerings. All of these are detailed in AmSnow’s
In the trails, the Sidewinders come back strong. The features of the R-TX and L-TX LE available this spring are hard to overlook. Both offer the same premium shocks as the Viper L-TX LE, as well as heated seat, goggle bag, and 50th Anniversary graphics, but they also add a heated visor plug standard. Not enough sleds come with that feature, in our opinion.
The Sidewinder SE versions of the R-TX and L-TX follow the same features as the Viper models. The L-TX DX mirrors the Viper DX features.
The touring and crossover segments diverge slightly, with the Sidewinder offered in a S-TX SE 137 package or a S-TX DX 146 setup. Both skids are coupled, and both sleds feature a shock package built to softer specs for a plusher ride. The 137 comes with a medium tunnel bag and soft saddle bags, while the 146 comes with the hard trunk and a 4.3-gal auxiliary fuel tank.
The X-TX SE comes in two varieties: a 137-inch cross-country type with a 1.75-inch lug Backcountry track, or a 141-inch uncoupled crossover with a 1.6-inch Cobra track. The 137 gets a FOX QS3 shocks up front and in back, while the 141 gets FOX Float 3s in the same locations.
Finally, the Sidewinder B-TX is available both as a spring-buy LE and an in-season SE model. The LE gets the 153x2.25-inch Powerclaw track, FOX QS3 shock package, and goggle bag. The SE has a 153x1.75-inch Backcountry track, and FOX Float 3 shocks.
Another final edition?
The only Phazer left in the Yamaha lineup for 2017 is the Phazer X-TX. No official word from Yamaha on this year being the last hurrah for the Phazer, but the writing is on the wall for this one. How much longer it can hang on is unknown.
Back for more in 2018 is Yamaha’s line of utility and 2-up sleds. This includes the VK Professional II and the VK540 2-stroke that were introduced last year. The VK Pro II benefits from the addition of electric power steering (EPS), plenty of storage and an updated functional body.
A new SR Venture DX brings a fresh look to the 2-up touring lineup. It's powered by a Genesis high-performance 3-cylinder engine, and it has an extra-tall windshield, deluxe two-piece heated seat and adjustable rear hand warmers. Talk about trail comfort!
The RS Vector hangs around in a standard version. All four RS Venture models from 2017 – the standard, TF, TF BAT, and MP – also return for 2018.