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Summit 800 at Petersville

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AMDS Outdoor Adventures - 11/25/00
by Ken Baehr

Ah, the dreaded first ride of the season. Chuck, Andrew and I headed up to Petersville over the Thanksgiving weekend for our first ride. We were on a mission. Chuck had made some modifications to his sled, and we wanted to compare them to my relatively stock version. Also we took the new 2001 Summit 800 with us to give it a good test run. It was fantastic!

Summit 800 and a Pair of 600's
Summit 800 and a Pair of 600's

To be honest, our day did not start out well at all. We arrived at the main parking lot at about 10:00 AM only to find out that all the parking spaces were full. After dealing with some internal frustration we remembered that Craig and Suzie Siebert had just bought Gate Creek Cabins on Petersville Road. Just maybe we could impose on them for a place to park. We were in luck. We pulled into Gate Creek. Craig was standing in front of the main cabin as usual beaming from ear to ear with a big smile that can be seen from about 100 yards. Even in riding clothes, when Craig smiles you know it's him. He was in the process of setting up a big bonfire that his guests would use later that night. He made us welcome. Although the bonfire party looked like a lot of fun, we off loaded and got on the trail.

Petersville CrossroadsPetersville Crossroads

The trail was pretty rough from a lot of use. Snow had been sparse, and it was plain hammered. It became apparent that Chuck's mods were working well. We all agreed that the throttle response, and handling of his machine on the rough trail had been greatly improved. His 600 was now producing 700 class power, and smooth.

Once we got to Chris and Karen's, we off loaded our gear and headed off to find some powder. What we have learned over the years is that 90 percent of the people that ride stay within a couple of hundred yard of the main trails. A little searching can turn up untouched powder fields even late in the season. Our ride was no exception. We followed a small creek away from the main trail, turned a corner and there it was, an open field of untracked powder just waiting for us and us alone.

Andy has some reservations about the new Summit 800. He is an avid Summit X rider and really likes the balance and handling of the S series Body. But, let's let him tell the story in his own words,

"Being an avid 98 Summit X rider, I had my doubts about the Summit 800. It's taken Rotax a few years to figure out how to get an equal or better power 'feel' from the reed valve engine as compared to the bullet-proof rotary valve. Die-hard Ski-Doo fans have many failsafe techniques to start the Primer w/rotary valve Rotax, so pardon me when I see the choke, no primer, and the Summit 800 sitting in a downhill position. So, how come it fires up second pull at the worst, and first pull usually? And when this baby rumbles to life, there are tones of "I dare you… go on... trust me… it won't hurt... much" emanating from the throaty idle. The engagement at around 4000 rpm is surprisingly smooth for the torque monster under the bonnet. There's a little Jeckyl and Hyde going on in my feeble brain since comparisons to the 98 Summit X High output high compression engine are constantly battling within. The X, though smooth out of the chute, prefers to run like a wild Mustang in heat. The 800 here has an air of sophistication about it... That is until you move the fun flipper to more than 1/8" throttle movement. Then hang onto your hats. It's skis off the ground until your internal fears get the best of you.

Working some drainage hills, I pointed the 800 at slopes starting at about 60 degrees, which flared out to 30/40 degrees. Whereas the wise hill-man would sense the opportune time to turn-out on the Summit X, at this point on the hill the sense of a helping hand pushed you from behind, the 800 kept climbing with the utmost controllability. Whenever the terrain would launch the sled "off-camber" while climbing, a small addition of throttle would apply steady power and the sled would "right-itself' even with the skis about 4 feet away from touching the slope. In fact, the sled would feel more comfortable on a climb with skis off the hill rather than the skis on the hill. The back-shift from this motor/clutch combo is impressive. The torquey engine, and instant back-shift made for easy maneuvering coming back down the hills.

The raised handle bar (introduced on the 98 X) works like a champ. The part that is most noticeable between the X and the 800 is the way it rides down a bumpy trail. Whereas we all know that unless you throw a M-10 under an X, you will have the living bajesus belted out of your soul when mogul bashing on an X. On this 800, once you find the optimum speed on the trail ( which may be a tad quicker than you're used to ), this sled literally skips across the tops of the moguls. and any myth about the turnability of the 144 inch track are just that... a myth. This 800 turns as good as the Summit X or any 136 inch tracked machine. With a power off backshift with a lot of weight transference up front, it turns on a dime.

Andy on Summit 800
Andy on Summit 800

I was also impressed with the mileage. We all know the mileage on the 98 Summit X is the envy of all mountain (and most other 600 plus cc engines) sleds. You will be happy to know, that the mileage on the first 60 miles of this factory sled (which is running richer during the first 4 hour break-in period) was about a half a bubble off that of the 99 Summit 600. Considering we used the Summit 800 for climbing hills and demo runs, I'd say that is pretty impressive. I'd have to run it neck and neck with the Summit X to see which sled would have better mileage, but it really is that close. Where the Summit 800 has the edge, is the "Cummins Turbo Diesel" like mid-range torque of the Rotax 800 twin. At 50 mph cruise, I squeezed the thruster and it planted me to the rear of the seat with such force the skis started to lift off the ground. Although conditions wouldn't allow us to safely go much faster than 75 mph, there was over half of the go-juice throttle left at 75.

The balance between the 800 and Summit X are pretty close with the 800 taking a lead with 'board turns' in powder fields. The 800 takes an angle set… and holds it as long as you want. It is flat easier to carve on the boards and have more fun at the same time. All in all, I still love the old Summit X, but #$?*&@#, now I have to look long and hard at the Summit 800 since it truly does, "turn it up a notch." Thanks Chuck and Ken for a chance at a "free ride" on the new 800… which has turned into a several thousand dollar ride. since now I have to buy one you #$%*&# sno-go pushers."

Well, that's Andy's story and he's sticking to it. I can't say I disagree with anything he said. Andy, Chuck and I switched sleds often during our riding. We each got ample time to try out the other guy's set up. I was impressed with all three machines, my stock Summit 600, Chuck's highly modified Summit 600 and the new Summit 800. All three machines were a blast to ride each for a different reason. By the end of the weekend we were tired, sore and happy. It was a great ride and another chance to be "out there."

~ Ken Baehr

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