What is the Best Snowmobile for Trail Riding?

Trail riding is one of the most popular styles of snowmobiling because it is so accessible. Nearly everyone starts out riding trails, and some people do this for their entire lives. If you love the trails, you need to get a high-quality trail riding sled. 

I’ve been snowmobiling since I was a kid and am familiar with all the different styles and the machines that match them. I’ve used many trail sleds over the years and keep myself informed on the best ones for trail riding purposes. 

This post will highlight what the best snowmobiles for trail riding are. I’ll explain what makes a particular sled well-suited to the trails and give you some other useful information to help you learn more about trail snowmobiles. 

Let’s get to it. 

What is a Trail Snowmobile? 

Trail snowmobiles are designed to be ridden on trails, meaning they are well-suited to handling groomed conditions better than variable backcountry terrain. These are a favorite style of many riders because they provide good performance in generally easy conditions.

Trail snowmobiles are also suitable for beginners because they aren’t as powerful or aggressive as more advanced models.  

What Makes a Good Trail Snowmobile?

A good trail snowmobile will generally have a shorter track that makes it easy to maneuver while also being comfort-focused so that you can ride on it for hours without worry. They will also have other features that make them easy to use when it comes to handling.

Trail snowmobiles are typically heavier than other styles of sleds. This makes them less capable in deeper snow but gives you more traction and maneuverability on groomed trail conditions. They are pretty average when it comes to performance, but that’s a good thing.

Some trail snowmobiles are built to be really fast, so another factor that makes a good model for experienced riders is how much power its engine has.  

5 Best Snowmobiles for Trail Riding Reviewed

Here are my picks for the best snowmobiles for trail riding this year. All of the models you see here will give you excellent trail performance. 

1. Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE EPS

  • Power steering 
  • Wide stance for stability 
  • 137-inch Rip Saw track
  • Starts at $19,399

The Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE EPS is an awesome trail sled that comes packed with features that will keep you cruising and in control on the trails. This is a favorite option for many experienced trail riders, and it delivers quality performance and reliability. 

A cool feature of this model is power steering, which gives you the ability to easily handle tight corners without putting a lot of effort into it. It also has a 4-stroke turbo engine with an impressive 998cc, allowing you to rip through the trails as fast as you want to go. 

In my opinion, this is a quality trail option all around, but it’s not necessarily the best option for beginners. It has a higher price tag and increased performance that can overwhelm inexperienced riders. 

2. Ski-Doo MXZ

  • Affordable
  • Excellent handling and cornering
  • Rotax engine
  • Starts at $8,999

Beginner trail riders will like everything that the Ski-Doo MXZ has to offer. This very capable sled comes with a highly affordable price tag, making it a good entry-level option that delivers a quality riding experience and a good investment. 

This model has a lighter weight that makes it easy to control and also has several features designed to increase maneuverability. It also has a large digital display that lets you get comfortable with the controls without being overwhelmed. 

There are several versions of the MXZ available, and you’ll need to pay more if you want the added features that aren’t included in the basic model.

3. Polaris Indy VR1

  • Good acceleration 
  • Smooth handling
  • 650 Patriot engine
  • Starts at $15,299

Another solid trail machine is the Polaris Indy VR1. I think this is a fun and reliable sled that will give you excellent performance on the trails. It comes with a 650 Patriot engine that delivers good acceleration without being too much for the average rider. 

The Indy VR1 also has smooth handling that makes it a breeze to keep under control, even at higher speeds. It’s an approachable model that all types of riders, from beginners to advanced, will enjoy. 

There are also some extra features included on this one, like hand warmers and a Ride Command 7S display.  

4. Arctic Cat ZR Thundercat

  • Fast!
  • Power steering
  • Excellent handling
  • Starts at $17,695

If you are an experienced trail rider with a need for speed, the Arctic Cat ZR Thundercat is one of the fastest production sleds you can find. This one has 200 horsepower thanks to a turbo-charged 998cc engine. It’s fast – plain and simple. 

The sled also comes with other features that help it excel and not just accelerate on the trail. Power steering boosts the handling to seriously great levels, and you can whip through corners with ease. And ATAC adjustable suspension lets you change things up on the fly. 

In my opinion, this is a powerful machine that will easily be too much for the average rider. And it also comes with a price tag that will be out of range for the average rider. 

5. Ski-Doo Renegade

  • Good all-around performance
  • Comfort-focused
  • Large digital display
  • Starts at $9,199

The Ski-Doo Renegade is another all-around awesome trail snowmobile that comes with an affordable starting price. This makes it a good option for beginners or any rider on a budget who wants a quality ride without breaking the bank. 

This one also comes with a comfort-focused design that makes it easy to spend hours on the trails. It also handles well and can rip pretty fast if you want to push the throttle, and the Rotax engine delivers plenty of power and reliability. 

There are several versions of the Renegade available, and the base price doesn’t have as many features or performance specs as more expensive trims.   

Snowmobile Trail Riding Tips

One thing that new trail riders can struggle with is how to go around tight corners without feeling out of control. You typically want to let off the throttle when cornering so you don’t have too much momentum going into the turn.

Getting this down can take some time, so just be patient with it and learn how your machine responds and handles it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and you can damage your sled or yourself if you roll on a turn. 

Taking a map, trail app, or having a GPS is also a good idea if you are going on an extended trail ride. This is especially true if you are riding in an unfamiliar area. Getting lost in the cold is a dangerous situation that you always want to avoid. 

Also, bring along some extra food and water if you are going for a long ride. And learn how to strap a cooler or extra bag onto the tunnel. This will give you more storage room and a more stable ride than wearing a backpack full of stuff. 


Here are some other questions about trail snowmobiles that I think you should know.

What is the best snowmobile track length for trail riding? 

Trail riding snowmobiles should have a track length between 120 and 140 inches. This is pretty short, but it’s the ideal length for trail riding because it makes the sled a little more maneuverable and easier to handle for the average rider.   

What is the difference between a mountain snowmobile and a trail snowmobile? 

Mountain snowmobiles are designed for off-trail situations and are capable in deep snow. They have longer tracks and are heavier. Trail snowmobiles are designed for trail riding and aren’t well equipped for deep snow conditions. They are heavier and have shorter tracks. 

Are mountain snowmobiles good for trail riding?

While you can take a mountain snowmobile on trails, they won’t be as good for these conditions as trail-specific models. Their longer tracks and lighter weight make them a little less capable on the trails, even though they can handle it pretty easily.  

What should I bring on a snowmobile trail ride? 

You can bring whatever you’d like on a snowmobile trail ride. It’s good to bring food, water, and some safety equipment if you’ll be out on an extended ride. And if you’re on a multi-day trip, you’ll need enough gear to stay warm and comfortable. 

Final Thoughts

Trail riding is a ton of fun, and all of the snowmobiles you see here are built to handle the trails. They are some of the best machines for that purpose you can find, and you won’t be disappointed if you get any of these. 

One of the great things about trail riding is that just about anybody can do it. It’s easy to meet other riders and develop a sense of snow-focused community. Just keep an eye out for other riders and always lend a hand when someone is in need.

About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *