Editor’s Note: In each issue of Snow Goer magazine, our team of experienced product testers reviews various aftermarket products in the Cold Tested department. This review was printed in the March 2014 issue of Snow Goer. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive such reviews, 7 times per year delivered to your home.
Curve Industries slid into the snowmobile industry about five years ago with creative thinking and a new design behind snowmobile skis. Snow Goer testers ran Curve XS skis on a Yamaha FX Nytro and an Arctic Cat F 800 a few years ago, and they improved handling and maintained comfortable steering effort. They were durable, too.
Last winter, I tested the company’s new deep-snow ski, the Curve XSM, on a 2013 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK. As did the original Curve set-up, it yielded fantastic results with noticeably better handling compared to the stock Polaris Gripper ski, which is no slouch either.
Curve markets the XSM skis as a versatile set that can be swapped from one side of a snowmobile to the other, depending on whether the machine is used for trail riding or mountain horseplay. The unique rear cutout, or “mountain profile,” is a handy feature to help riders sidehill and carve more easily and with precision.
On one edge the XSM profile is wide near the tip, it tapers to a narrower dimension near the spindle mount and then widens again at the tail, like an hourglass; this profile is designed to be on the outboard side for trail riding. The opposite mountain profile edge is also wide at the tip and tapered near the spindle mount, but from the spindle to the tail the edge runs straight to help carving and sidehilling when it’s on the outboard side of a sled.
Darting through tight trees and maneuvering in steep conditions requires confidence that a machine will maintain its line and track where the rider wants to go, and these XSM skis never let me down or had me doubting whether they’d stick to the path I chose. The innovative design molded into the bottom of the ski engages with the snow to create a steerable edge.
When the sled is rolled up on one ski and a ski is put on its edge for carving or sidehilling, the rear cutout effectively reduced counter-steering effort and maintained flotation in even the fluffiest Montana powder. While playing in the snow, the tip of the ski directed snow out and down to keep it from spraying my face, but it occasionally let me catch a few welcomed face blasts of pow that helped keep the fun meter in the red zone.
The XSM’s round shape and wide profile in the ski loop allows a solid grip when tugging and prevents the hands from being uncomfortably pinched. The spindle tray in the ski easily accepts the stock hardware shims so a person can set the skis inward or outward, keeping options open for ski stance.
Compared to the stock skis, I noticed better trail performance and tracking with the Curve XSM skis. A reduction in darting through ruts and wear bar/keel marks on the trail was a pleasant surprise — a benefit linked to the unique double-arc profile along the bottom of the skis. Without substantially increasing the steering effort in trail or hard snow conditions, the XSM offered aggressive initial turnin without pushing.
Durability was also paramount in the varying conditions throughout nine late-season ride days where I encountered sharp rocks and pesky stumps or logs that tried to crease the skis. The construction of the Curve XSM held up without any considerable marks or gouges.
Installation and fitment went quite well, except that the supplied rubber ski spacers required use of a hacksaw to slice off about one-eighth of an inch of material to make it fit between the bottom of the spindle and top of the ski saddle. Other Curve skis tested by SG also required this extra step and makes me wonder why the company hasn’t resized the spacers.
Curve claims trail handling would have been even better with the mountain profile facing the bellypan. When riding exclusively in the mountains, though, there’s no sense in switching them back and forth, but people who run extreme crossovers — sleds like the XF Cross Country, Freeride 137 or Switchback Assault — could take advantage of this feature because they run trails and some backcountry in the Midwest for most of the winter and head west to ride in the mountains, too.
XSM Skis – 467.89 (with mounts, loops and runners)
Waterville, New York