COVID is doing some strange things to the powersports business. For sure, it’s shattering sales records as families trade their expensive annual, warm-weather vacays in on PWC, ATVs, boats, SXSs and yes, snowmobiles.
This fall, we’re hearing of dealers equipping completely new snowmobilers with sleds, gear, clothing and advice on what to do with the snowmobiles they’re taking home or to their cabin in big numbers.
Interestingly, for decades the OEMs have wallowed in indecision and ambivalence having little success expanding the sno-mo-biz and getting sleds in the hands of a new generation. The plans to accomplish this have been myriad, with lofty goals but until COVID hit, success at expanding the market has been at best, elusive. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic expands the sled biz?
For the record it’s not just new, entry level sleds selling like ice cream on a July day – it’s late model used iron as well. Check out the prices used sleds are going for all over the North American snowbelt! Frankly it’s crazy, making the cost of a new, fully warranted unit convincingly attractive. The problem? New sleds are in short supply.
So, here’s our opinion on some completely credible entry level sleds perfectly suitable as first rides or for family use (second sled).
We’ve penned a ton of articles on the new Arctic Cat BLAST. This is a really good first sled that offers respectable top end on hard pack (65 MPH). Handling is okay but the Blast would benefit from an anti-sway bar to level up the front end when pushing the sled into turns.
The BLAST has a full size sled feel and it fits full size adult pilots comfortably. Ride quality is okay – not fantastic – but certainly good enough for family trail rides and a pull up the lake.
The BLAST uses what we consider a high feature engine, albeit a single cylinder one. The 400cc liquid cooled 2-stroke produces remarkable thrust with a nice surge right off engagement and enough jam to keep pilots in the hunt on any twisty trail. The SDI engine uses a 3-stage exhaust valve to keep power strong down low and impressive up top.
The BLAST is not cheap, however, in today’s ridiculously demand-intensive market, we think price is less a consideration than is availability. Simply put, people want to be outside in the snow if they can’t go to the Bahamas this winter.
Here’s another impressive entry level ride able to double as a second sled for family use. Polaris is in the third year of producing the Indy EVO. The sled offers unique features, not the least of which is a complete upgrade package that will follow the skill level of the rider.
Literally, the EVO is a piece of ergonomic genius. The sled in its stock form sits very low and is not the least bit intimidating to first-time pilots. Engine power output is about 65 ponies – but speed is limited to 50 MPH, the right number for a new rider.
As your fleet of pilots grows and gains confidence in the safe operation of a snowmobile, the complete front suspension, IFS shocks and rear skid shocks and springs can be swapped out, increasing both width and available suspension travel significantly. At the same time a new ECU black box can be installed giving the 550 twin cylinder fan-cooled engine an impressive upward kick in top speed from the stock 50 MPH limit.
Here’s why the EVO is a great buy. The ability to upgrade the suspension and handling significantly and return it back to stock if you enlist a new pilot, is pretty much unprecedented. In case you’re wondering – yes – the EVO is the best handler in this segment.