There is an impressive number of choices for mountain sled tracks in terms of width, length, lug height, rubber hardness and lug profile, but there isn’t a guaranteed best mountain snowmobile track for everyone. By evaluating conditions where you ride, your abilities and more, you’ll likely end up on a sled fitted with the best track for you.
Climber Or Boondocker? – With everything else being equal, a longer sled will always climb higher than a shorter sled while a shorter track lets riders maneuver better and is a little easier to throw around in the woods. But a shorter track carries more weight per square inch, so on the biggest climbs or the deepest snow days it’s not going to perform as well as a longer track. Sidehilling is easier with a longer track because they hold a sidehill more effectively, so they don’t wash out and fall down the slope as easily.
Your Ability – Longer tracks like a 162- or 163-inch might seem intimidating, but longer tracks are often a better choice for snowmobilers who have less experience in the mountains. “If you’re not going through the trees with speed [or] using momentum to keep you going, a longer track absolutely helps,” said Marty Sampson, a Polaris engineer who’s part of the RMK development team. “It buys you the advantage of flotation so that you can stop and get going again, and you can make a turn without having to be on the gas.” Aggressive riders can get away with shorter tracks because the shear speed they typically carry through trees helps keep them afloat.
Snow Conditions — Obviously a longer track stays afloat in powder better than a shorty, and long sleds become easier to maneuver as the snow piles up. A case for a 153, 154 or 155, some people say, is that they’re easier to dig out. Being shorter, they don’t trench as deeply into the snow pack as a 162 or 163.
Your Physical Makeup — Heavier riders often prefer longer sleds because they carry weight better by spreading the load across a larger area so the track doesn’t dig in. Bret Rasmussen, owner of western riding clinic Ride Rasmussen Style, says longer tracks also help big riders by keeping the front end down under acceleration so they can maintain their line. Smaller riders might find a 163-inch track to be more cumbersome and tiring to manage all day out in the mountains.
Geographic Location — Snow in the mountains of California, parts of Washington and British Columbia is typically wet and heavy and it sets up fast, so sleds need tracks made from a harder rubber to get the best traction. Central Rocky Mountains typically have lighter, fluffier snow so track rubber needs to be softer to grip the snowpack without trenching. Lower elevations, foothills or areas with a lot of prairie and open ground is where 141- and 144-inch tracks fit in well because they provide more flotation than a trail sled while not being the gun at a knife fight.
Your Riding Group — The people you ride with should be figured into track selection. If most riders have 144s and they only hop off the trail occasionally to burn through the woods, you’re probably not going to enjoy riding a 163 with that group as you try to keep up while driving a longer sled on the trail. If your group plans to jump off-trail at its first opportunity and climb hills, but it doesn’t want to get stuck, a long sled is best for you.