7 Types of Snowmobiles (What You Need to Know)

Two snowmobile riders racing down the slope.

Source: Freepik

Snowmobiles were invented out of necessity for people who need to work in icy conditions. It was developed and patented as early as 1927. Back then, it had a simple engine that was capable of taking one passenger from one icy location to another. It was aptly named iron dog and popularly used by hunters and power line companies.

Nowadays, manufacturers have developed different types of snowmobiles which have different specialties over almost any type of snow. They are also equipped with the latest technology that makes riding on snow safer and efficiently.

Types of Snowmobiles

Trail Snowmobile

A Polaris Indy 600 XC 137 trail sled featured on Supertrax Mag.

Source: Supertrax Mag

A trail snowmobile doesn’t need a lot of skill to operate. It is also the most relatively inexpensive of all types. It has simple mechanisms which make it something that even amateurs can ride.

In addition to the simple construction, it is also fairly lightweight, which helps it scale mountains without much problem. Its suspension and shock absorber is also designed to take on bumps and humps on the snow so that the snowmobiler will have an easy time going over these obstacles. 

If someone wants to ride a bit faster and more aggressively over slopes, the trail snowmobile will be able to handle these because of the sturdy frame and components it has onboard. The engine is usually 70 horsepower which is plenty of power to provide good ascending and descending power.

Even if the trail is not that groomed or has new snow, you won’t be so much bothered by that because of how trail snowmobiles can take them on. It will take a lot to stop this snowmobile from getting stuck.

It is a great choice for anyone who wants to see the mountainside. The front skis are usually made from sturdy material, which also floats over snow.

They are also built to last as they won’t be bothered as much even when left outside and covered with snow. The components are weatherproof and it will start easily when you need it. 

As they are designed to be workhorses, they lack a bit in onboard technology. But you won’t miss those amenities with the fun you will get with these trail snowmobiles. A trail is a great entry level snowmobile or youth snowmobile.

Sport Trail Snowmobile

A 600 Rush® Pro-S snowmobile from Polaris.

Source: Polaris

Sport trail snowmobiles are a step above trail snowmobiles because of upgraded features. These can run faster and are more agile than trail snowmobiles, hence the name sport trail. 

As you would expect from a sports variant, these snowmobiles will run without much fuss over any type of trail and course. These have moderately more power than a trail, and the front and rear suspension are made for even more rugged terrain. Of course, there are limitations to what it can go over, like deep powder snow. But it can still manage most regular paths a beginner to an intermediate driver can confidently traverse.

A driver who wants to be more aggressive in their driving will fare better if they opt for a sport trail than a trail simply because sport trail snowmobiles are meant to be ridden hard all the time. Anyone who needs to go over snow from one point to another can benefit from using this snowmobile. In a sense, you can give this all you’ve got, and it will still have plenty more to give back.

The frames on these snowmobiles are still lightweight and durable, much like trail snowmobiles. If you’re switching from a trail snowmobile to a sportier variant, you will feel a big difference between the two because of the more aggressive design and the more powerful engine of the sport trail.

These come equipped with powerful engines that help ascend mountainous terrain quickly and have great suspension to help with cornering and even descending. And since they are sports variants, you will find technology on these snowmobiles that help with stability, power distribution, and even increasing the overall performance of the snowmobile.

With these additional amenities, you can expect sports snowmobiles will cost more to buy and maintain.

Performance Snowmobile

A 2022 Polaris Indy XCR snowmobile featured on Snowmobile.

Source: Snowmobile

This is yet another upgrade from the sport snowmobile. It is designed to be a monster on the slopes.

The features and the primary design purpose of this are to give the rider complete freedom on the ice because they are based on racing vehicles. They are both light and powerful, which makes every ride fast and aggressive which is why they also use these for snowmobile racing. Having been equipped with a state-of-the-art suspension system, you don’t need to worry about this toppling over.

Performance snowmobiles have powerful stock engines, and you can choose even better and stronger engines to equip your vehicle. You can go over 100mph on this snowmobile. The seeming tradeoff is the slightly larger body.

One would expect that these would also have sticky cornering performance, but that would not be true. It can go over corners easily thanks to the modern suspensions they put on them. 

This is the reason these are the more preferred types when it comes to competition. They are built for speed and for winning contests with the amount of power they have under the hood.

These also have excellent balance. They allow the driver to stand up and change their riding position to tackle a specific terrain or course. This may mean leaning or standing up. With a wide base, the driver can maneuver over almost any hurdle in front of them.

Since they are being used for performance and are expected to be always ready for any kind of situation, these snowmobiles also come equipped with onboard technology like an electric start that allows for fast startup and fuel efficiency.

Touring Snowmobile

Two snowmobile riders on a Polaris Titan 800 featured on Snowmobile.

Source: Snowmobile

Touring snowmobiles are on the opposite side of the spectrum. These do not have the fastest speeds or the most versatile suspension system, but they have components that allow them to be used in the snow for a long time. These are built for enthusiasts who want to have an enjoyable and comfortable ride in the snow.

As its name suggests, if you need to travel to a far location, these can help you haul your belongings without a problem. These are the camper van equivalent for snowmobiles. They have an oversized frame and longer base where you can store your equipment or baggage. These usually have a seat for two people so that if you want to take someone along, they have a space to sit.

Most of the time, they are equipped with amenities that make long rides in the snow more comfortable. These include a sat-nav system, heated grips and seats, a backrest, and a sound system. They also have larger windshields and even a reverse gear, something most snowmobiles do not have.

These can go for miles on end without breaking down or a need for a refill. These are ideal for the adventurous type.

Although some models can still provide you plenty of speed if you need them to. What they are built for is to endure the harsh cold weather for a long time. They are also built to pull sleds if needed. The engine and the long track are built to take these kinds of use. 

Mountain Snowmobile

An SXVenom Mountain snowmobile in Frost Silver/Team Yamaha Blue from Yamaha Motor Sports.

Source: Yamaha Motor Sports

A mountain snowmobile is designed to scale the slopes and ascend to the peaks.

This lightweight snowmobile is both powerful and agile, enabling you to have a burst of acceleration whenever you need it. The longer track, something like the ones on touring snowmobiles, allow it to go up high angles without falling over.

One of the biggest problems when it comes to climbing mountains on snowmobiles is fresh powder snow. It tends to be loose and difficult to get traction on. But these are the things that a mountain snowmobile is built for. It has significantly higher horsepower, which means you can easily power your way upwards. While you can’t expect this to go as fast as trail snowmobiles, it can certainly scale steeper angles that will otherwise frustrate any other types of snowmobiles.

What you will notice, though, is the consistency in the climb this snowmobile can provide. While it may not go as fast, it will surely take you to higher elevations than other snowmobiles. Most of the time, these will have a two-stroke engine that allows faster and more agile performance as well as keeping the entire snow vehicle lightweight.

If you like rugged and sporty designs, these will easily fit your taste. You will notice that the handlebars of a mountain snowmobile are raised. This is to provide better control over difficult terrain. The sleds are also made from sturdy materials and have an upswept design to prevent them from catching anything in the way.

Crossover Snowmobile

A man riding a red and white crossover snowmobile featured on Tousley Motorsports.

Source: Tousley Motorsports

Crossover snowmobiles are the ultimate deep snow vehicle because it crosses over (get it?) most of the features of all the previous snowmobiles.

It can climb mountains, go fast on flat terrain, tackle powder snow like it was built for it, and it can go for hours without issues. With the long snowmobile track comparable to a mountain snowmobile, it can go over almost any type of condition in the snow. 

These are also great for exploring either unexplored and groomed trail. It has a boosted suspension system which allows it to go over terrain easily. This reduces the chances of catching anything that may topple you over.

The engines on these snowmobiles are also powerful and adept at taking a beating. Even if a driver with an aggressive style uses these, they will be satisfied by the reaction of the vehicle to them. Its handling is also noteworthy as it is usually equipped with handling assistance that makes turns even in tight corners a breeze.

The playful nature of this snowmobile allows it to get through just about any terrain. If the ascend is particularly difficult, with the right skill, you can use this to jump a gap and land safely on the other side.

Most of the time, these will also have luxury amenities like touring snowmobiles. These will have heated grips and seats to make the ride as comfortable for the snowmobiler as possible. They  also have some riding modes to fit the performance of the snowmobile according to the terrain and environment.

Utility Snowmobile

A man doing his winter chores alongside a Polaris utility snowmobile featured on Charles and Hudson.

Source: Charles and Hudson

Finally, a utility snowmobile is more for work than play. While they may seem to be less exciting than a sport trail or a crossover snowmobile, they are among the most important snowmobile types.

These are often used by companies who need to tow a stuck driver or take gears and equipment from one place to another. These do not have a sporty look to them, but they are far from being ugly. These all-around snowmobiles are built to help people in the snow. 

But that is not to say that you can’t use these to enjoy the scenery. You can virtually drive this anywhere in the snow as they are built to tackle the challenges in case of emergency.

What it lacks for playfulness, it makes up for its practicality. This is an all-business vehicle. The design is based on a touring snowmobile minus the fancy amenities. It can easily climb slopes and go over powder with no problem. They can also tolerate heavy loads and difficult terrain with ease with their wide tracks and longer base.

If you need something that will help you carry around gear in the snow, a utility snowmobile is a right choice. And in emergency situations, a utility snowmobile is better suited to respond than any other snowmobile type. 

Because of the purposes, it is intended for, manufacturers usually put technology in these which help it carry heavier weights and perform well under great pressure.

Snowmobile Maintenance

A photo of a man doing a visual inspection of an orange snowmobile featured on Intrepid Snowmobiler.
Photo of Accelerated Technologies shop © by Craig Nicholson

Source: Intrepid Snowmobiler

Regular maintenance for your snowmobile is crucial because of the harsh environment it is used in. As much as it is very much like a regular all-terrain vehicle, it will still have some specified maintenance tasks to keep it running smoothly and performing well.

Pre-Season Check

Most snowmobiles will be stored away in the summer. This is why you should store it properly so that it won’t get some of its parts corroded or damaged when it is not being used. A pre-season check is simply inspecting the basic parts of the snowmobile, including the lights, spark plugs, brakes, skis, track, and battery. You also need to check the idler wheels, bearings, steering, throttle, and fluid levels.

Other Maintenance

Your chaincase lubricant may need replacement if it has been stored for quite some time. One way of knowing if it’s time for an oil change is if it has gone for about a thousand kilometers. 

It is also a good idea to check the chain tension. The tension should be as the user manual describes. 

Before going out, cleaning the belt and clutches will provide you with better performance. Check if they are not fraying or do not have any signs of damage. But if they do, then you probably should swap them out for new ones.

The track should be checked regularly. These are like tires that need regular replacement to provide better traction and performance over any type of snow.

Your suspension rails should also be given ample attention to allow them to glide over the snow without much problem. Make sure that it does not show any sign of breaking or flaking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of snowmobile tracks are there?

There are several types of tracks for a snowmobile. Some of them are mountain tracks, racing, cross country, snowmobile trail, utility, and rail, and tunnel extensions. These have different track length and can be used depending on what type of riding the driver will do.

What factors should you consider when choosing a snowmobile?

The best way to pick the right snowmobile is to choose one that will provide you with the right features for your chosen discipline. Different types have different features, strengths, advantages, and disadvantages, so pick the one that will give you a great time on the track.

Do you need a license to operate a snowmobile?

Adie from the proper equipment, a license is required to drive a snowmobile in public roadways.

How do you know if there is enough snow for snowmobiling?

You will want to see if there is at least four inches of snow on the ground. This is so that you don’t hit ground or concrete when you sled. But for best results, six inches of snow is the most ideal.

What are the safety gears when driving a snowmobile?

When driving a modern snowmobile, safety is the first concern. Wearing the proper clothing and helmet will be a good start. There are snowmobile suits that help keep you warm as well as protect you from untoward injury. A proper pair of snow boots, gloves, goggles, and a facemask will also provide good protection for you.

Additionally, bringing emergency gear like a GPS, shovel, flares, and ice picks will also prepare you for anything that may happen.

Conclusion

A man in a blue jacket sitting on his snowmobile, enjoying the sunset at winter.

Source: Freepik

Snowmobiles offer a lot of fun for the driver, especially if they use the right type for their chosen path and. This is why it is important to know which type of snowmobile is the right one for you. As always, remember to wear safety gear and keep yourself fully informed of the terrain before going out and having fun.

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