Which Snowdog Is Best For Me?

Capacity, Compact, review, Slush, Snow, Standard, testing, Towing -

Which Snowdog Is Best For Me?

One of the most common questions we get from visitors to our store or our website is “Which model is best for me?” With five different options to pick from, it can be difficult to know which one is going to suit your needs best.

Over the Christmas holiday break, I tested two machines, and took them out along the same trails, on the same lakes, and through the same range of conditions.  While I’m sure I didn’t cover all of the possibilities you might encounter in your travels, I think I can at least help narrow your choices.

To lay the groundwork (you know, for science), these are the machines I tested:  the 10HP compact model, and the 13HP Standard model with Reverse option.  I picked these two because I had to see for myself If the Reverse option was worth it.  Also, I wanted to see how the 13HP motor performed, and if there were any other differences.  As far as the spectrum goes - the 10HP Compact is the smallest, lightest version of the Snowdog, and the 13HP Standard with Reverse is the heaviest and largest one.

Standard Snowdog with Seat and Sled

I tested the machines in a pretty wide range of snow depths and densities.  On the roadways around my place there was about 1” of snow, mostly heavy packed stuff.  On the lake as at least 10” of snow, and in some places, there was slush underneath that (but still on top of 8-10” of ice).  The snow on the lake was generally powdery and soft.

Temperatures ranged from -20 degrees Celsius to a balmy +5 Celsius, which changed the snow a lot, but only made it easier to travel in deeper snow, at higher speeds.

In all of my testing, I was pulling only the Snowdog Sled, with a seat, and me, so the machine was pulling at most 275 lbs. (I’m including the seat and sled in that number!).

10HP vs. 13HP engine

When we first started selling Snowdogs, I was sold on the 10HP model.  I still think it’s a very capable engine, and there are merits to its lighter weight (for portability, you can’t beat it).  That being said, if portability isn’t your biggest concern, then go for the 13HP model.  All of the other components (clutch, gear box, brakes) are more “robust” as well, and the trade-off in weight will be forgotten the first time it pulls you up a steep hill or through a twisty trail.

Compact model vs. Standard model

We’ve been telling our customers that the Standard is better in deep snow because of the longer track (and therefore reduced ground pressure).  We have proven this. The Standard I tested, even with the larger engine, sailed through deep snow (even some slush on the ice) without even slowing down.  In heavy slush conditions, anything will bog down, but the Standard 13HP still performed very well.  The Compact, though lighter, had some trouble in slushy snow, and just couldn’t maintain speed when I drove through some slushy spots.

The other most notable difference was the steering.  The Compact is a breeze to steer in any conditions.  In deeper snow, the Standard becomes nearly impossible to steer at top speed by simply “pushing” the handlebars out to the sides like you’d want to do.  To steer the Standard most effectively in deep snow, you have to tilt the whole machine to the left or right like a jet-ski in order to  carve into the snow.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult, but it does take some practice.  On trails that are used frequently, steering is not a problem for either model (though it’s still a bit easier on the Compact).

Reverse Option: Yes or No?

We have typically advised our customers NOT to pay extra for the reverse gear option because we didn’t believe it was as useful as our customers want it to be.  At the time, the reverse gear had to be actuated manually by a lever in the front of the engine compartment, which seemed a little awkward.

This year was the first year that Snowdog offered the Reverse option with a switch on the handlebar, allowing you to drive the machine in reverse much like a Snowmobile.  This changes everything!  If you’re going to buy a Standard 13HP unit, the Reverse Gear option is actually pretty handy.  I found myself in a situation on a marshy trail where I had to back out (or pull myself out). The reverse gear made it incredibly easy.

Reverse option, when available, is definitely a YES.

UPDATE: We can now install a reverse gear in Compact 13HP Snowdog machines.

THE VERDICT

It’s been a fun week of testing.

The question of Compact vs. Standard isn’t an easy one, but here’s how I’d boil it down: 

Pick a COMPACT MODEL if:

  • You prefer to transport it from place to place without a trailer
  • You plan to ride on packed snow or on existing trails
  • Ease of steering is important (in any conditions) 

Pick a STANDARD MODEL if:

  • You plan to boldly go where no one has gone before
  • You regularly encounter deeper snow

Whatever Snowdog you decide on, you’ll love them.  They’re super fun to drive even if you’re not into ice fishing.  They’re great for touring the lake, exploring bush trails or just taking the kids out for a sleigh ride and enjoying the great outdoors.