Get Ready to Rumble!

The new 2019 lineup of mountain sleds has never been more impressive and capable!
Arctic Cat M 8000 Alpha One
Arctic Cat M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One 154
2019 will be a year to remember! Ski-Doo made the last big jump in 2016 with the release of the 850 E-TEC in the Gen4 chassis, but next year will be the year of Arctic cat with the M 8000 Alpha One, and Polaris with its all-new 850 patriot. While Ski-Doo and Polaris are full-throttle down the road, cat seems to have taken the ramp to a completely different highway!

■ Arctic Cat M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One 154
The all new M8000 Alpha One is no doubt going to be one of the greatest turning points in the history of snowmobiling (in my humble opinion). Not just in terms of engineering and how it rides, but in the whole paradigm shift that it has created. If this is just Alpha, I can’t imagine what we will see over the next 23 years before we get to Omega.

Single-beam Alpha rear suspension
What exactly is the Alpha One?

It took six years, but the result is a revolutionary single-beam rear suspension appropriately named: Alpha. This is an entirely new concept where instead of two slide rails, there is one narrow skid down the center of the sled. The rail is hollowed out and combines two bonded metals that provide the best material for the functionality. The contact points in the front utilize magnesium, while the rear is made from extruded aluminum. The metal combination provides maximum results of durability, functionality and weight.

This suspension system was designed for dedicated off-trail riding. When riding in the steep and deep, this configuration provides maximum performance for minimum input. In fact, it took some time to get used to the reduced effort needed to operate this Cat, but once you log a few miles and settle into the sled, the machine becomes like a salsa partner on the dance floor.

The technology that drives this fluidity between rider and machine is evident when you see that more of the track stays on the hill when rolling from side to side. The single-beam suspension leaves more track on the snow, keeping that forward propelling motion. However, this agility is not the only benefit. The Alpha is lighter (11-pound dry weight reduction) and also traps less snow while riding.

It should be noted that this is a sled designed to maximize backcountry powder riding. In fact, it is made exclusively with these conditions in mind. So, while the sled is a revelation for this type of riding, it is not your daily trail-riding sled. You need to ask yourself if your usual riding conditions are a mixed bag; if so, you may prefer more of a crossover sled. If your home is the steep and deep, the Alpha will reign supreme.

While the 165 is more suited for the Alpha platform, meaning it is an incredible sled in the deep snow (and the longer track length definitely makes a difference), don’t let that keep you from loading up a 154 from your local dealer. It just takes an already agile sled and makes it even more nimble. If you like fast powder turns, drops, re-entries, really quick hop overs and of course tail stands then the 154 is perfect. It is fast, too! We are talking 850 fast in some cases. The 154 Alpha One may not have an 850 motor but honestly, after riding it we wondered if AC had a 900 under the hood and just forgot to tell the guys in marketing.

Arctic Cat Backcountry rider and Pro RMSHA Hillclimb Athlete David McClure says, “The 2019 Alpha One is the best mountain sled Arctic Cat has ever produced!! The revolutionary rear suspension and track make mountain riding easier for novice riders and professionals. The Alpha One isn’t just an 18 Mountain Cat with a cool new skid; it has much-improved skis, controls and a new redesigned, lighter-weight track. All of these changes make a freaking awesome fun-to-ride mountain sled!”
Polaris Pro-RMK 850 155
Polaris Pro-RMK 850 155
■ Polaris Pro-RMK 155
Can we call it a Patriot Missile? Because that sure is what the Polaris 850 feels like to ride.

Cole Willford, Factory Polaris Rider and Pro Hillclimber/Backcountry Rider says, “The new Patriot pulls hard! It has snappy throttle response with smooth linear power throughout the power-band.”

Polaris 850 Patriot Engine
After four years in design, Polaris introduced the Patriot 850 Engine for this season and it has been worth the wait. It is also worth the weight. While this engine is heavier than its predecessor, the increased capacity has it continuing to be the leader in the weight-to-power category. Past naysayers have quibbled about Polaris being under-powered; however, without diving into the rabbit hole about whether this was true or not, it definitely cannot be said anymore. This motor boasts the lowest inertia ratios, which translates into better motor response.

The first thing you notice when riding the 850 is the power, specifically the smooth power band allowing you to edge through the trees without having to continuously be on and off the throttle. Indeed, the linear power is something even the pros have been excited about with this motor. Andy Thomas, Factory Polaris Rider and Pro Hillclimber/Backcountry Rider says, “It has so much bottom-end power and it just keeps pulling!”

The new Patriot 850 has had four years of rigorous testing, and the end result is what may be the most durable motor ever, with Polaris offering a four-year warranty on its first release! The first factor you notice with this new engine will be evident on the trail headed out to the powder: The engine has less vibration. Once you hit the powder, you’ll appreciate the increased CCs.

The 155 AXYS chassis immediately felt nimbler underfoot than its predecessor. Some of this has to do with how the engine was mounted under the hood. Since it was a completely new engine, some features for mounting it had to be changed. However, all of these slight changes further smoothed the ride for a sled that was already easy to control. The running boards are new and improved and Polaris engineers told us that the bumper on the back of the sled would hit on a steep side hill before the running boards.

“It is significantly easier to tip on edge and hold it there. I noticed myself riding in a neutral position much more vs. the ‘18,” said Keith Curtis, Factory Polaris Rider and Pro Hillclimber/Backcountry Rider. “I felt like I wasn’t fighting the sled when side-hilling with the React front end. The new Patriot 850 runs very strong all the way through and keeps on pulling on the top end. The harmonics are smooth as glass!”

What would Keith add to these sleds? “Boondocker Sidekick turbo, Raptor Kinetic Shocks, SKINZ product all around, topped with a signature Arctic FX graphic package.” Of course.

The 155 Polaris Pro-RMK 850 is incredibly fun to ride and the 155-track length is a great all-around track length for all rider types. True to Polaris AXYS form, it comes up on top of the snow quick and is easy to bring the front end up when you need it.

While this sled tends to trench a little more quickly than the 163, it is faster with less rotating mass. So if you want that little bit of extra speed and are not worried about standing it up on its tail at a braap of the throttle, the 155 is the perfect length on this sled.

Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 154
Ski-Doo Summit SP 850 154
■ Ski-Doo 850 Summit SP 154
Amazingly easy to ride with incredible hook-up, this is a sled that just keeps going when it should be stuck. Oh, and let’s not forget the confidence it gives you to get out of any creek bottom or crazy deep and steep forested side-hill. With one of the best motors in the 850 E-TEC, sitting on top of arguably the best chassis in the game right now (the Gen4), there isn’t much the Summit SP 154 can’t do.

The Stock Boss
While not much is new on the Summit SP 154 Ski-Doo 850, it continues to be a fantastic sled right from the factory. Out West, we view the clutching as the masterpiece, with virtually nothing needed to ride in the high altitudes except some minor adjustments to fit rider height and riding style, such as handlebar risers.

“My favorite thing about the 2019 154 Summit SP 850 is how capable it is out of the box,” says Steve Martin, professional snocross/backcountry rider says. “I could ride one bone stock and have a smile on my face every ride!” We asked Steve: If he could change anything on the SP what would it be?

“I actually order an SP every year, because I change everything that is different between an X and an SP. The one thing I always change, and I think everyone should change, is the handlebar riser. I run the shortest riser available from Ski-Doo, a 4.7-inch riser. When the rider is standing on the snowmobile with his or her knees bent, the handlebars should be at waist height. The stock riser is probably correct for some people, but I think a lot of people ride with one that is too tall or too short.

I also remove one of the sway bar end links to let the front suspension work fully independent. The sway bar is installed from the factory for trail riding, which the sled wasn’t designed to do. One thing that is often overlooked are the carbide runners the sleds come with. The carbides will catch on rocks and stumps, not to mention tear up trailers, and your shop floor. Many companies sell hard-weld runners, and I replace mine as soon as I get the sled home.”

Steve’s favorite movie? “Slednecks Y2K. I was young, and Blair Morgan was my hero. He was throwing huge whips on his snocross sled. I watched it so many times on VHS that the sound quit working.” Incidentally, Steve was the only rider who answered the favorite-movie question with a film that actually related to snowmobiles. Andy Thomas’ favorite flick is Lone Survivor, while Keith Curtis listed Happy Gilmore, Goonies and The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Trent Handsaker, professional hillclimb racer/Backcountry rider and guide - whose favorite movie is Top Gun - says: “The Gen4 154 Summit is the complete package, once you pair that chassis with the 850 E-TEC, it brings it to a whole new level. What stands out the most to me is the throttle response, which is unparalleled. Most of my day is spent in the trees and creek bottoms, this is where the instant response is so noticeable.” We asked Trent if he could change anything on the SP, what would it be? “If I could improve anything on the machine, it would be LED headlights and more in depth gauge.”

With the improvements and innovations made over the past few years, a change of color may be the only thing needed this year to ride with the competition. Keep in mind, the sled had a complete overhaul in 2016 and was the overall sled of choice by the AmSnow test riders in last year’s powder evaluation.
■ Conclusion
When it comes to changes, this year is all over the map. Arctic Cat’s Alpha is a revolutionary change, diverging from the status quo and rethinking the design into something that transforms how a sled reacts. This reaction, however, is specific to deep snow conditions. Polaris has knocked it out of the park with the added power of the 850 Patriot Engine. And while it is a welcome addition, it was a predictable improvement. We never anticipated it would be backed with a four-year warranty right out of the gate. The improvements for this sled will be felt in the pow, and on the trail getting to it. Ski-Doo didn’t provide us with any major releases in the 850, but the new 600R is a whole new awesome beast we can’t wait to ride again. Of all the sleds on the market, the Gen4 chassis with 850 motor is still the top of the game in most snow conditions. However, for 2019 the playing field in many ways has never been more level.

This year more than ever, riders will need to evaluate their own habits before making a sled purchase. How long you travel on trails vs. mountain riding; your average snow conditions; and the time you have to tinker on your sled will all factor into choosing the sled that keeps you smiling throughout the season.
Arctic Cat M 6000 Alpha One
Alpha One M 6000
Cat revealed a new Alpha One M6000 154 3” during Hay Days this past September

Price: $11,999
Color : Black or ice blue
Engine: C-TEC2 599cc (125-hp)

Engineer and pro rider thoughts
Andy Beavis: Mountain Team Manager and Engineer
Andy helped design the new Alpha One and is a rare combination of hardcore athlete, engineer and out- of-the-box thinker. Oh and let’s not forget nerd (and we mean that in the best possible way).

Andy understood what mountain riders would want and were looking for. A classic case of the right hand knowing exactly what the left hand was doing.

“There needed to be an in-road for those looking to get into mountain sledding and the M6000 fit that niche. This is a great platform for novices. The M6000 comes equipped with electric start, a softer suspension in combination with the engine and gearing, and now the Alpha One under it makes it a great sled for anyone who may be new to mountain sledding or looking for a great first sled to learn on. It has an easier throttle to modulate and a proven engine. And it’s the only 600 to come with a 3-inch lug, giving you the full mountain sled experience in a 600 package.

I am most excited about seeing people’s reaction this winter when they finally get to ride it!”

Todd Tupper: Mountain Team member, racer and suspension expert
Todd is one of only a couple of people who has actually ridden this sled and gave us his expert input:

“My overall impression of the new Alpha M6000 is that it is a very capable lower cc mountain sled that has smooth power and a nice plush, compliant ride.
The Alpha suspension makes it lighter and more maneuverable in deep snow conditions. The way it gets around in deep snow will really impress people!
The differences between the M6000 Alpha and the M8000 Alpha are that the M6000 comes with a less aggressive shock package and electric start. This will appeal to people looking for a fun mountain sled that won’t have you as tired as the bigger sleds would by the end of the day. The M6000 is a great option for those learning to ride a mountain sled.”
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