The 2018 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year was announced in the magazine’s November 2017 issue, and for the first time ever, it was a tie because the influential machines that earned the honor were co-developed between two brands. And, that end product and the thinking behind it could be vitally important to the long-term viability of the sport. Here’s the text from the November issue of Snow Goer.
2018 Snow Goer Snowmobile Of The Year: Yamaha SnoScoot and Arctic Cat ZR 200
Common practice in the sport says that a modern, trail-legal snowmobile should have at least a 120-inch track underneath it. It has to have at least 50 HP, and it’s going to have an MSRP higher than $6,000.
Common practice within manufacturer legal departments says that building a “tweener” snowmobile is not a sound idea. Oh sure, the need for such a machine is a common topic among snowmobiling parents and grandparents, who have been cobbling together small but tired sleds from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s to give kids something to ride after they’ve outgrown the 120-class youth sleds – which aren’t even technically or legally snowmobiles. The factories have heard the cries, but their skittish lawyers and bean counters have always slammed the door on the product planners when it comes to filling the niche.
Common sense says that if a company was going to overrule its corporate attorneys and spend big bucks developing a sled that could serve that transition role and potentially attract newcomers to snowmobiling, it would be a big-picture-thinking market share leader that’s banking some major cash from the sport.
Thankfully, for the long-term health of snowmobiling, somebody decided to violate all of those unwritten rules.
All of that combined is what makes us break our own rules and name the Yamaha SnoScoot and Arctic Cat ZR 200 the first-ever co-winners of the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award. We’ve never previously considered splitting the award, but it’s also never been warranted before. In this case, however, these two companies worked closely together to create this shared platform, and neither would have succeeded and launched the product without the other.
For the uninitiated, the SnoScoot/ZR 200 is a joint project between Arctic Cat and Yamaha that features an oversized version of the ZR 120/SRX 120 youth sled chassis powered by a 9.5 HP engine. Its cockpit is laid out to be particularly inviting to teens or smaller adults, but it’ll easily haul 200-plus-pound riders (trust us). And, when compared to the 120s, it has a working suspension system plus other components that make it trail-legal – including a headlight, taillight and seat that meet industry and government safety requirements for snowmobiles, plus an engine that meets noise and emissions standards.
The little machines are fun – we had a riot trading paint on them – and surprisingly capable in varying conditions. With the little Yamaha engine that was repurposed from a pressure washer, it’s never going to set land speed records, but that’s not its purpose. Instead, these machines are here to fill a very important niche in snowmobiling.
Are the SnoScoot and ZR 200 exactly what some people would have wanted from a “tweener” snowmobile? Maybe not – but they are what could be built at an acceptable price point. They are also a long-awaited first step toward keeping young people involved in snowmobiling while perhaps attracting some newcomers. Given our longstanding criteria for the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award – which stresses innovation, forward thinking and the potential market impact of a machine – these snowmobiles are worthy of our highest honor.