Just to show you how hot the mountain market is, it seems like new technology and concepts are coming on a monthly basis.
One just-introduced 2020 mountain ride we’re paying close attention to is Ski-Doo’s Summit X Expert.
There are a couple of things about the Expert that are truly ground-breaking and much of the conceptualization of this sled has come right from Ski-Doo mountain aficionado, Carl Kuster.
The first thing you notice is the tunnel and track are not the same length. Available in two track lengths – 154 and 165, the Expert uses a 146-inch tunnel on the 154 skid version and a 154-inch tunnel on the 165. All versions come with a 3-inch track. Also, there’s almost no visible snowflap at the rear of either Expert variation.
What? Here’s the story on these innovations. Apparently, when you’re navigating super-deep powder and the skid and tunnel are almost buried in fluff, the tunnel acts as a rudder. Unfortunately, the rudder is heading straight ahead, so if you try to turn while you’re pouring on throttle there’s extra resistance from a longer tunnel. If the tunnel is shorter it’s easier to pivot the sled in the deep stuff.
We were skeptical, but after riding it a couple of days in the mountains one of our test riders, Jon Legato, had this to say: “I feel like the shorter tunnel and longer track allow the sled to feel less cumbersome and long while climbing steep and deep areas. Jumping the sled felt significantly better too because of the shorter tunnel, it seemed to allow the sled to pop up better while maintaining control in the air.”
The better jumping response may be more because of the fact there’s only a tiny snowflap at the rear and the tunnel can clean out instantly, letting the track respond more quickly to engine power under less load. “There’s definitely potential with the “no snow flap” feature on the Expert. When trenching through the deep powder, it allowed the sled to power though without the chance of getting stuck compared to the normal snow flap holding snow inside the tunnel. Also, while in a wheelie climbing steep terrain, you have more control because nothing is dragging or grabbing the snow.”
Another couple of things Ski-Doo has “unlearned” is the Expert actually has a lower seat height than other Summits, skinnier handlebars (at the grips), a smaller grab strap and a lower handlebar riser (4.7 inches).
Most of this has to do with lowering the center of gravity when you’re climbing near-vertical slopes or maneuvering sidehills, but it also helps with agility in the deepest snow.
Not fully satisfied with the above changes, Ski-Doo altered the Expert’s front end geometry (modified spindles) and the ski-stops for less resistance when you hit submerged objects.
As it is, the sled reacts beautifully when there’s a ground impact in the middle of a climb or when you’re sidehilling. Some of this stellar response is undoubtedly because of the excellent and actually very expensive Kashima coated shocks up front on the Expert package.
Another critical innovation is the Expert’s tunnel mounted limiter strap adjuster. This allows the rider to simply and easily adjust how far the front of the skid is plunging into the snow – especially helpful with deep snow climb-out.
It goes without saying all Experts are equipped with Ski-Doo’s revolutionary SHOT starting system, use a narrowed RAS 3 front end (adjustable 42.5 to 43.7) and the Summit’s tMotion pivoting skidframe. Apparently there are a total of 14 unique changes that set the Expert apart from other Summits.
Here’s a crazy twist for you to contemplate. Ski-Doo and Polaris both have come to the 2020 marketplace with new, more highly specialized mountain sleds. The new RMK Khaos is very similar in its execution and purpose as the Expert. So who was looking over the fence?