Arctic Cat vs. Ski-Doo: 11 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Snowmobile


You’re interested in buying a new snowmobile, and your research has helped you narrow it down to two major brands: Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo. You can’t really go wrong with either brand, but since you only want one snowmobile, you have to choose between the two. What do you need to know about these two storied brands before buying a snowmobile?

We recommend studying up on these 11 facts before buying an Arctic Cat or Ski-Doo snowmobile:

  • Ski-Doo has the longer history, but only by a year
  • Bombardier, which is owned by the father of snowmobiling Joseph Bombardier, created Ski-Doo, but Arctic Cat is founded by the same man behind Polaris 
  • Arctic Cat offers sport utility, trail, crossover, mountain, and mid-sized sleds
  • The Arctic Cat ZR 8000 RR 137 and the Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC 165 are the fastest sleds from these brands
  • The Arctic Cat 2018 ZR 9000 RR was considered one of the most expensive snowmobiles on the planet at one point
  • Ski-Doo snowmobiles may get better mileage than those from Arctic Cat 
  • Arctic Cat uses four-stroke CTEC-2 8000 Series engines while Ski-Doo sleds have a Rotax Snowmobile Engine 
  • Ski-Doo sleds feature the rMotion X and RAS X suspension system while Arctic Cat uses its own brand of suspension called the ARS II 
  • Short-term warranties of up to 36 months are available 
  • You can finance a snowmobile from Arctic Cat or Ski-Doo
  • Both brands offer plenty of useful snowmobiling accessories

In this article, we’ll discuss the above 11 pertinent areas in more detail to help you make up your mind when it comes to buying an Arctic Cat vs. a Ski-Doo snowmobile. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

Arctic Cat vs. Ski-Doo: 11 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Buy a Snowmobile from Either of These Brands

History

Arctic Cat was founded in 1960 in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Today owned by Textron Inc., Arctic Cat became a part of the snowmobile boom of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Once known as Polar Manufacturing, then Arctic Enterprises, the Arctic Cat name came about later but has stuck around ever since.

The first snowmobiles produced by Arctic Cat were known as the Boss Cat sleds. By 1968, Arctic Cat opened its first warehouse in the Rainy River, Ontario area, employing 60 people in a space of 1,500 square feet. 

The original Arctic Cat went bankrupt in 1982, but a company called Arctco revived the brand. That company later became the new Arctic Cat in name. Since it tasted success in the world of snowmobiles, Arctic Cat has expanded to producing two-wheel-drive vehicles, helicopters, personal watercraft, minibikes, generators, and snowblowers.

As for Ski-Doo, that company was founded in 1959 in Canada. Owned by Bombardier Inc., which is now Bombardier Recreational Products, Ski-Doo started off as Ski-Dog, NY. The Ski-Doo name actually came about by accident. In a brochure for Bombardier products, a typo listed Ski-Dog as Ski-Doo. The founders liked the new name enough that it has stuck around ever since.

Although their snowmobiles were always for recreational use, the earliest Ski-Doo sleds were favored among land surveyors, prospectors, trappers, and missionaries who needed a way to travel through snowy terrain fast. Later, more and more sporty types of sledders caught on to the Ski-Doo brand. 

Ski-Doo has risen to such prominence that in 2007, the CBC put it 17th on its The Greatest Canadian Invention products list. Canadians also use slang like ski-dooing as a verb because the brand has become so synonymous with sledding in that country. 

Founders

The founder of Arctic Cat is Edgar Hetteen, who was already regarded as a pioneer. He’s even referred to as the grandfather of snowmobiling to many. Before creating Arctic Cat, Hetteen had been involved with another snowmobiling brand, Polaris. That company he founded with his brother Allan.

Edgar wasn’t thrilled with the first Polaris prototype and soon exited the company just as it began experiencing success, with his brother Allan spearheading the Polaris Sno Traveler. Edgar then moved to Arctic Cat.

Ski-Doo’s founder is Joseph-Armand Bombardier of Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., then known as Bombardier Inc. If Edgar Hetteen is the grandfather of snowmobiling, then Joseph-Armand Bombardier is the father of snowmobiling. As we’ve discussed on this blog before, Bombardier created the first officially recognized snowmobile.

Besides owning the Ski-Doo brand, Bombardier Recreational Products also produces Rotax internal combustion engines, Evinrude Outboard Motors, Sea-Doo personal watercrafts, Can-Am motorcycles, and the Lynx line of snowmobiles. 

Types of Snowmobiles

Depending on the terrain you plan to ride, it’s important you have variety regarding the types of snowmobiles available. Arctic Cat produces youth, sport utility, trail, crossover, mountain, and mid-sized sleds. Here’s an overview.

  • Arctic Cat youth snowmobiles: The youth sleds include the ZR 120 and the ZR 200, both of which are available for under $4,500. 
  • Arctic Cat sport utility snowmobiles: The Norseman sport utility sled costs around $13,500. 
  • Arctic Cat trail snowmobiles: The trail sleds from Arctic Cat in the ZR Series include the ZR Limited, ZR RR, ZR R XC, and the ZR Thundercat for around $17,700. 
  • Arctic Cat crossover snowmobiles: The Riot crossover sleds from Arctic Cat are the Riot and the Riot X, which is around $14,500. 
  • Arctic Cat mountain snowmobiles: You can select from two mountain sleds from Arctic Cat in the Alpha series, the M Hardcore Alpha One or the M Mountain Cat Alpha One. Each cost more than $15,500. 
  • Arctic Cat mid-sized snowmobiles: The mid-sized sleds in the Blast series are the Blast Lit, Blast ZR, and the Blast M, all for about $8,500 each. 

Ski-Doo doesn’t organize their snowmobiles into convenient categories like that. Instead, they’re classed by type or series, including the Tundra, Skandic, Expedition, Freeride, Summit, Grand Touring, Backcountry, Renegade, and MXZ. Some of the names are indicative of the type of use for the snowmobile. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • Ski-Doo Tundra snowmobiles: The Tundra series snowmobiles include the Tundra LT and the Tundra Sport for about $8,500 at most.
  • Ski-Doo Skandic snowmobiles: In the Skandic family of Ski-Doo snowmobiles are the Skandic SWT, Skandic Sport, and the Skandic WT. The prices are between $9,500 and $10,000. 
  • Ski-Doo Expedition snowmobiles: The Expedition Xtreme, Expedition Sport, and Expedition SWT are your options here for $12,000 to $14,000. 
  • Ski-Doo Freeride snowmobiles: The Freeride Ski-Doo snowmobile starts at about $15,000. 
  • Ski-Doo Summit snowmobiles: Select from the Summit SP or Summit X, which are between $12,000 and $13,700. 
  • Ski-Doo Grand Touring snowmobiles: The Ski-Doo touring snowmobile series sleds are the Grand Touring Limited and the Grand Touring Sport for $10,000 to $13,000. 
  • Ski-Doo Backcountry snowmobiles: Go off-roading on the Backcountry X-RS, Backcountry Sport, or the original Backcountry, with prices up to $15,000. 
  • Ski-Doo Renegade snowmobiles: The Renegade series of Ski-Doo snowmobiles are the Renegade Sport, Renegade Adrenaline, Renegade Enduro, Renegade X, and the Renegade X-RS. Prices start at about $9,000. 
  • Ski-Doo MXZ snowmobiles: In the MXZ series, you’ll find the MXZ X-RS, MXZ Sport, MXZ TNT, and the MXZ X, all of which are $8,000 to $14,000. 

Fastest Snowmobiles

What if you’re a speed demon interested in only the fastest sleds? From Arctic Cat, that’s undoubtedly the ZR 8000 RR 137. The 2020 model includes a strong running board, Fox shocks, and a durable chassis from ProCross. Unlike past models in the ZR series, the ZR 8000 RR 137 boasts ARS II front suspension geometry and a CTEC-2 engine. That engine has an upgraded fuel rail, combustion chamber, pistons, and cylinders while the suspension makes cornering on your sled a breeze.

The 2021 ZR 9000 Thundercat ES will blow away even the ZR 8000 RR 137. This newer Arctic Cat model features a 998cc triple-turbo-charged C-TEC four-stroke engine that lets you achieve horsepower well over 200 HP and 8,750 RPM. With four-hole fuel injectors and turbo intercooling, a forged crankshaft, lightweight cylinders, and engine braking control, this is one of the best engines found in an Arctic Cat snowmobile yet. 

The Adjustable On-the-Fly Suspension from ATAC is another winning feature on this speedy sled. The rear suspension with SLIDE-ACTION boasts a U-shaped front arm slot for sliding down to half an inch so you can control your acceleration more optimally. With the SLIDE-ACTION suspension, you also get Torque-Sensing Links, three-wheel rear axles, adjustable spring preload, and rear coupling block adjustability. 

One of the fastest Ski-Doo sleds on the market is the X 850 E-TEC 165 with the Expert Package. The 2020 model includes reduced bar end and seat sizing as well as a handlebar that’s lower to the ground so the sled is more aerodynamic. The slimmed-down snowflap and reduced tunnel also prevent resistance for a smoother, faster ride. 

The Ski-Doo MXZ X 850 is another pick for speedsters, as it can achieve average speeds of 128 miles per hour. This sled features a Rotax 850 E-TEC two-stroke, liquid-cooled eRAVE engine at 8,100 RPM. 

The RAS X front suspension with HPG Plus front shocks as well as the rMotion rear suspension with KYB Pro 36 Easy-Adjust rear shocks also lend this new Ski-Doo durability as well as impressive speed. 

Most Expensive Snowmobiles

Back in 2018, the Arctic Cat topped Luxatic’s list of the most expensive snowmobiles. If you look at that list, it’s literally all Arctic Cat models, with the 2018 Arctic Cat ZR 9000 RR topping the list at $17,199 to start.

Two years later and the price of the ZR Series Arctic Cat snowmobiles has not really changed. They still start at around $17,000, which is a bit much considering you can get a new snowmobile for about $10,000 on average.

That said, several Ski-Doo models are around $15,000 each, so you’re not going to experience huge savings by going with this brand.  

Mileage

Gas mileage isn’t the biggest consideration when buying a snowmobile since you don’t drive the vehicle like a car, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore mileage altogether. After all, you’ll want to know how far your sled can go if you’re miles and miles away from the closest gas station and your sled is about out of juice.

Arctic Cats are not known for their mileage compared to other sled brands on the market, including the Ski-Doo. They’re lumped in with Yamahas as snowmobiles that don’t have the greatest mileage. 

Engine

Any Arctic Cat snowmobiles produced during and after 2018 include the brand’s new CTEC-2 8000 Series engine. This two-stroke liquid-cooling engine with two cylinders has 794 ccs of displacement. Using electronic injection lubrication, the CTEC-2 is ignited via digitally-driven 3D CDI. 

Other features include a W-shaped reed for better airflow, a sealed center gear to maintain lubrication, and automatic decompression so your snowmobile starts up like a dream every time. With a fuel rail damper, you can maintain fuel pressure, and Dual-Stage injectors send fuel via the cylinder wall to the cylinder port, crankcase, and combustion chambers.

An Exhaust Pipe Temperature Sensor maintains the timing of ignition as well as how much air and fuel the engine receives at any one time. The Arctic Power Valve or APV is an exhaust valve system with Arctic Cat’s new and improved side valves that enhance the performance of your engine by feeding exhaust through the auxiliary and primary ports. 

Ski-Doo’s Rotax engine, which is a Bombardier creation, is outfitted in all their snowmobiles. The two-stroke Rotax engines include the Rotax 600R E-TEC, the Rotax 850 E-TEC, the Rotax 800R E-TEC, and the Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC. You get at least 125 HP with the Rotax 600R E-TEC while the Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC engine runs at 600 ccs.

If your Ski-Doo sled has a four-stroke engine, then you better believe it’s a Rotax 900 Ace Turbo, Rotax 1200 4-TEC, a Rotax 900 Ace, or a Rotax 600 Ace.

The Rotax 900 Ace Turbo starts at 150 HP thanks to its turbocharger. Go even faster, up to 160 HP, when your Ski-Doo sled has a Rotax 1200 4-TEC engine installed. The 19-mpg fuel economy included with this engine is part of why Ski-Doo outshines Arctic Cat in terms of mileage.

Suspension

Most models of Arctic Cat snowmobiles feature the brand’s ARS II front suspension, with ARS standing for Arctic Race Suspension. With the ARS II suspension, you can corner better than ever before, even if the trail is covered in hard-packed snow. 

A swaybar also keeps your cornering flatter and safer while the geometry of the suspension improves the cambers and roll-center. The aluminum spindles in the suspension system are now forged together from the lower arm to the ski, and Arctic Cat upgraded the A-arms as well. Whether you’re riding on the trail or off, you can rely on this front suspension system anytime.

Ski-Doo’s suspension system includes rMotion X and RAS X, the former of which is rear suspension and the latter of which is front. This suspension system has been called “game-changing.” 

Warranty

Arctic Cat’s engine warranty is a limited warranty that only goes into effect if the engine damage isn’t caused by user error. For factory-sealed sales, your warranty is good for between 90 and 180 days. Any accessories and parts you get dealer-installed are covered for the next 30 days.

Ski-Doo’s warranty is somewhat more encompassing. They offer B.E.S.T. extended service, which lets you choose a coverage duration of 12, 24, or 36 months after your manufacturer limited warranty expires. You can transfer your warranty to another owner if it’s still in effect at the time of the sale. Ski-Doo says this won’t cost you extra money to do. 

If you happen to move to another part of the country, the B.E.S.T extended service still applies, although it’s not good internationally. 

Financing

If you’re looking to finance your sled, Arctic Cat has a plan that lets you spend $0 as a down payment with two months no interest and three months no payment. Then, over the next 36 months, you’d pay 3.99 percent of your snowmobile bill. Arctic Cat uses a service called FreedomRoad Financial to finance their sleds. 

Ski-Doo owners can also apply for a credit to get financing through Sheffield Financial. According to Ski-Doo, their financing offers fixed interest rates on a competitive scale. 

Accessories

If you want to pick up a few extras to go along with your snowmobile, check out Arctic Cat’s accessories here. The brand sells oil for your snowmobile, windscreens, customizable handguards, gear bags, sled covers, hoodies and shirts, gloves and helmets, boots, and performance jackets and pants. 

You can also shop for accessories by snowmobile type, such as reinforced racks and bumpers for utility snowmobiles, storage for mountain snowmobiles, shocks for trail snowmobiles, and even accessories for youth sleds. 

Ski-Doo also has accessories that you can take a look at here. From snowmobile wraps to remote suspension adjustors, adjustable windshields, removable snowflaps, shock kits, new seats, and more, you can make your snowmobile uniquely yours with Ski-Doo. 

Final Thoughts

Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo are two of the biggest names in snowmobiles. If you’re seriously considering a sled from either of these brands, now you have lots of information to guide your decision. Best of luck! 

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Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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