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 Expedition SE - We (ABR Trails) order the 20 inch track SE for grooming w the 900 Ace. The SE has an air shock on the rear similar to the grand touring model. The air shock lets you air up the rear end for a stiff back and very good steering. We order the ice cobra prestudded track. This model comes standard with a winch. The SE also comes in a turbo model which has approximately 165 HP, way more than needed but it is fun for trail riding and rescues. The gearing in the turbo is not as low as the standard SE. Ok that is the good news…here is the bad news, these are special spring order sleds so you need to plan ahead and they are about $13-14k.
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.
Update: We (ABR Trails) still use the Bearcat Groomer specials as well, which are needed for pulling the 108 Ginzu. We have 4 x 4 spacer blocks in the rear suspension to take the sag out for pulling heavy. The problem seems to be that theses groomer specials or 7000 models have not been available over the past 2 years.
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 900/1000 - Large, powerful machine. Fuel injected. Strafford Nordic, one of the YTS dealers, is very pleased with their older Ranger. They replaced the transmission once but it has otherwise been very reliable. Even when carrying a passenger, it has more pull strength than any snowmobile. They pull a 108" Ginzugroomer with it all the time. Pricing will be near $20k or more with tracks.
Kubota RTV-X900/1100C/1120 - Quite possibly the most rugged and durable UTV available. Pricing will be near $30k with tracks. It is the perfect machine if (1) you can afford it, and (2) are in a lower elevation. The engine is 24.8 HP naturally aspirated diesel which will not have enough power to pull a groomer at 8000 ft. There's a company in Colorado that will install a turbo kit that should help it in the higher elevations.
CanAm Outlander 1000 - avoid for mountain trail systems. Our club has two of these ATV's. They pull hard and are difficult to get stuck. Problems? 2020/21 season, our club spent about $7000 in repairs on one of our ATV's. In deep fresh spring snow when we are trying to knock down the snow without any groomer attached, this machine just isn't durable enough. We've stripped a front driveshaft spline, blew out the transmission, cracked a plastic coolant connector, and have fought excess exhaust heat continuously. The exhaust heat melts the rear brake master cylinder. We've relocated the master cylinder and will hope that solves the problems.
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!