Grooming Snowmobiles - Cross Country Skier, Oct 1 2010, Eric Anderson
Minimum requirements: 2-speed hi/low transmission. Just about any machine will pull the standard roller. Grooming requires more power to pull it due to the knives that dig into the snow to rebuild the surface prior to compaction.
SkiDoo Skandic SWT 550 fan - good reliable machine! Clubs or new trail systems that are looking for a quality grooming machine and are short on cash should start their search with "Skandic SWT" in the search bar. It is 2-stroke which requires that you are aware that it needs the oil tank under the hood filled up once in a while, but it should last many years. Engine rebuilds or re-rings are much easier on a 2-stroke engine than on the larger more powerful 4-stroke engines.
SkiDoo Skandic SWT 900 ACE - 24" track! Many very experienced customers consider the Skandic SWT the only choice for their primary grooming sleds. One of our very experienced customers with a new 2019 Skandic says it doesn't turn well. It needs added weight on the front bumper to help it turn.
2019+ Skidoo Expedition SWT - 24" track! This one looks promising. I saw it in the dealer showroom where it was being prepared for a ranch customer to groom his private trails. His was setup with the 1 1/4 receivers front and back and a winch in a bracket on the side. It looked like a great groomer. I'm sure it had a more plush ride than the Skandic, though when you are grooming at 10 mph I don't know how important that is. Skidoo says the 900 ACE engine will get 21 mpg. Our old 2-stroke Skandic 550 fan probably didn't do much better than 5 mpg towing a groomer. TBD - Field reports from experienced groomers.
Arctic Cat Bearcat 7000 XT GS (groomer special) - this is the first machine that I am aware of that was designed specifically for grooming. It can be ordered with the gooseneck plate with a 1 7/8" ball that works well with the YTS gooseneck hitch that is an option for ginzugroomers. It also comes pre-wired from handlebars to a connector on the back of the seat. YTS can supply the wiring harness to fit the Bearcat. The GS was discontinued by Arctic Cat for the 2019 season. However - all is not lost! Keep your eye on this page. It is very likely that a well-connected dealer will add the grooming features to a 7000 XT to create an improved version of the GS. The features that make a 7000 XT into a GS are the light bar, the grooming switches and wiring, and the HD front bumper with the optional winch. YTS will offer an improved gooseneck hitch mount designed specifically for the 7000 XT GS. One of our professional grooming customers says the Bearcat will pull all day at 1 mph without overheating.
2017+ Yamaha VK540 - 20 x 154 track, 2 speed transmission, proven 2-cycle 540cc engine. This is the lowest cost new grooming sled available and is very likely to be reliable and trustworthy for many years. After many years off the market, it was brought back in 2017 due to demand for a machine that can be pull started at -40F in the frozen remote areas of Siberia. It is essentially a snow truck. Long romantic two person trips are not the primary purpose of this machine!
Yamaha VK Professional - 3-cylinder 1049cc water cooled 4-stroke with a 20" track. This is a heavy duty 900 lb machine. Our club has two of them. They run well and tend to be very reliable. See my other discussion here.
Polaris Voyager - Though it only has a single speed transmission, the Voyager is geared quite low and makes an excellent groomer. It has an articulated rear track section that improves its backup capability.
Lockwood Electro Motive - This groomer is in the beta test phase at Seeley Lake, MT. It was designed specifically to groom single track fatbike snow trails (26" flat and consistently firm base with packed rounded berms). It should be available in the summer of 2019. Quick Facts: 24HP 3-phase AC motor & controller, twist grip throttle, lithium-ion batteries sufficient for a 6 hour run time, low center of gravity, practically unlimited torque with amazing traction, battery charge gauge and status display, quiet. The designer claims that this groomer has never been stuck! Is is the ultimate ready-to-go maintenance free groomer.
Polaris Ranger XP 900 - Large, powerful machine. Fuel injected. TBD - Field use reports.
CanAm Outlander 1000 has been a good machine for our club. It has not had the overheating and under seat melting problems that have plagued the earlier models. Our minor complaint is that has roughly the same transmission design as a snowmobile. It uses a belt. An inexperienced operator that drifts off trail in deep snow and uses a lot of throttle on a machine that is not moving can quickly burn a belt. It is quite difficult to change a belt on the Can Am in the field. It can be done!
Yamaha Grizzly - very popular and also has been reliable for at least one customer that has over 100k of Nordic trails.
Honda Pioneer - the specs and what little I gathered from talking with a Honda sales rep show this to be a promising machine. It has a better transmission for grooming than most. TBD - need a review from a groomer!