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Ski-Doo Grand Touring Electric Snowmobile Review: You Can Ride It, but Not Buy It

Ski-Doo launched its first-ever fully electric snowmobile, signaling a new direction for the brand and possibly even a new era in power snow-sports. But you can't buy one ... yet.

Ski Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles(Photo/Ski Doo)
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I stepped out of my truck into the parking lot of Grand Adventures in Winter Park, Colo., and a brand new Ski-Doo Grand Touring snowmobile passed right in front of me. I froze, watching it, baffled. It barely made a noise as it moved across the lot. And I couldn’t smell anything except the cold fresh air.

When I heard that Ski-Doo was coming out with its first fully electric snowmobile, I was pretty psyched. As a frequent backcountry skier, I think snowmobiles are great — they make it possible to get to remote terrain that wouldn’t be accessible on skis alone. But I’m also not a fan of the sounds and smells they fill the mountains with when I’m out seeking peace and solace. They’re loud machines. And they smell of burning gasoline.

However, both of those hangups could be solved by electric snowmobiles. I couldn’t help but imagine a near future, where gas-powered traditional snowmobiles were replaced by battery-powered ones that ran silently and didn’t burn fossil fuels.

It was a very optimistic hope, I’d soon discover. But not an entirely unrealistic one. That vision of electric-only snowmobiles chasing their gas-powered predecessors out of the backcountry could maybe someday become a reality — but it’s years, perhaps even decades down the road.

Still, the Ski-Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles are a big deal. Some smaller brands like Taiga have experimented with electric snowmobiles before. But this is the first time a brand of this size has launched a fully electric snowmobile of its own. Even though there is still a lot of room for improvement and advancement in the technology, this first iteration is pretty impressive. And BRP, Ski-Doo’s parent company, promises it’s the first of many.

Ski-Doo Grand Touring Electric Snowmobiles: First Look

Ski Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles; (Photo/Ski Doo)

Before we even hopped on the Grand Touring electric snowmobiles, my dreams of these sleds carrying skiers and riders around the backcountry this season were deflated. Ski-Doo explained that for now, these snowmobiles are only going to be available to rent through select Uncharted Society outfitters. They’re meant to be a more approachable option for beginners and families who want to take guided tours. The brand doesn’t have any plans to roll them out for public purchase within the next few years.

Nevertheless, BRP is investing heavily in electric vehicle research and development across its brands. It’s expanding its electric power unit development infrastructure in Gunskirchen, Austria, and creating the BRP Electric Vehicle Development Centre, in Valcourt, Quebec, Canada.

The BRP facilities in Austria will be focused on engineering inverters and high-performance electric motors, while the Canadian Development Centre will be developing chargers and battery packs for its vehicles. By 2027 BRP plans to offer an electric vehicle in each of its product lines. And by 2035, BRP is aiming for 50% of its units sold to be electric products.

But for now, if you want to ride a Ski-Doo electric snowmobile, you’ll have to do it at one of the eight Uncharted Society outfitters these new snowmobiles were purpose-built for. Grand Adventures is one of the five U.S. locations, with others in Cle Elm, Wash., Jackson Hole, Wyo. Island Park, Idaho, Fairbanks, Alaska, and three more in Canada.

Our guide for the day gave us a quick safety debrief and prepped us on what to expect from the new Ski-Doo Grand Tourings. Then, we were off.

First Impressions

Ski Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles; (Photo/Ski Doo)

When a group of snowmobiles is first fired up, it usually becomes a raucous growling pack of combustion engines. When you’re on one, you can feel the motor rumbling beneath you. And when you punch the gas and take off, the machine screams. You can’t talk to people on other snowmobiles without shouting. Guides will often tell people to kill the engines when they stop to communicate something.

The Ski-Doo electric snowmobiles, however, were perfectly silent when they were turned on and idling. They didn’t vibrate and rumble. In fact, the only reason I knew it was actually on after I plugged in the key and pressed a button was the display screen that lit up, indicating that the machine was ready to ride. I touched the clutch and sure enough, the snowmobile bucked forward. I was in gear and ready to go — no rope start and no choke lever necessary.

We took off from the parking lot together, sounding more like a group of timid vacuum cleaners than a squad of Grand Touring snowmobiles. I could talk to the person beside me as we rode.

Acceleration and Top Speeds

(Photo/Ski Doo)

Like every electric vehicle I’ve used, the Ski-Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles accelerate differently than their gas-powered counterparts. It’s a punchier, more instantaneous acceleration that can catch you off guard if you aren’t ready for it. If you’ve ridden snowmobiles before, this will probably be the most immediately apparent difference you’ll notice.

There are two keys for the Grand Touring electronic snowmobiles that offer slightly different performance capabilities; there is a “Normal Key” and a “Guide Key.”

(Photo/Will Brendza)
(Photo/Will Brendza)

The normal key has a speed cap of 25 mph (40 km/h) and accelerates more gently. The guide key has a speed cap of 37 mph (60 km/h) and can accelerate slightly faster. Standard Grand Touring snowmobiles have no such factory-set speed caps — most gas-powered snowmobiles will go 60-100 mph.

Ski-Doo explained those speed caps are in part to preserve battery range. But they’re also for guest safety. Remember, these snowmobiles are meant to be a beginner option for Uncharted Society clients dipping their toes in the sport. They don’t need to exceed 37 mph.

Battery Life, Range, and Charge

Ski Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles; (Photo/Ski Doo)

Batteries are the single biggest technological hurdle facing all-electric vehicles today. Battery capacity dictates the range and power of electric vehicles, and there’s no way around that. And for now, combustion engines almost always outgun electric ones.

Electric snowmobiles are no exception to that general rule. A standard gas-powered Grand Touring can travel well over 100 miles on a single tank of gas. The Grand Touring electric snowmobile runs on the same kind of integrated lithium-ion battery as an electric vehicle. Its range is 31 miles (50 km) at an average speed of 15.5 mph (25 km/h). Travel faster than that, and your range will decrease.

That will be one of the biggest hangups for backcountry users adopting electric snowmobiles over gas-powered ones — 31 miles is a very small range. And spare batteries weigh significantly more than gasoline. Carrying them would be a drain on your range in and of itself.

Luckily, these electric snowmobiles charge pretty quickly. Using a Level 2 standard J1772 EVSE electric vehicle charger, the Grand Touring electric snowmobiles will charge from 10% to 80% in 1.5 hours and from 0% to 100% in under 3 hours. A heat exchanger serves to cool the battery and motor as needed, and there’s a coolant heater to warm the battery if it gets too cold.

There is also a ReGen feature that activates when the throttle is released. It regenerates battery power and feeds it back into the electric system, slightly replenishing the range. You can watch this feature in action on the display as you ride.

Different Features, Different Ride

(Photo/Will Brendza)
(Photo/Will Brendza)

The track on these electric Grand Touring snowmobiles is specific to this model. It’s only 120 inches long and 14 inches wide. It has small, specially designed 0.75-inch lugs, and is vented to reduce the sled’s weight and add flexibility.

This means that these snowmobiles are limited to hardpack trails for the time being. From what Ski-Doo told us, these sleds won’t go far in deep powder — yet another hurdle for backcountry use.

(Photo/Will Brendza)
(Photo/Will Brendza)

Power is delivered to the track via a clutchless direct drive with a chaincase. Both the driveline and the drive wheels, slides, and idler wheels have been optimized to reduce friction and resistance and stretch the vehicle’s range as much as possible.

The handling of these electric snowmobiles is slightly more jittery than that of gas-powered snowmobiles. But they weigh the same as a regular Grand Touring (dry weight, empty of gas), and the basic layout and chassis are similar to the current two-up Ski-Doo and Lynx models. So overall, they handle similarly.

However, the thing I kept hearing from other riders with years more experience on snowmobiles than I have, was that it’s largely a different-feeling ride. Not worse, they noted — just different. I kept hearing words like “peaceful” and “serene” in their descriptions.

All Else, the Same

(Photo/Will Brendza)
(Photo/Will Brendza)

Beyond the differences listed above, Ski-Doo kept all else the same with the Grand Touring electric snowmobiles. As noted, they’re a similar weight. They feature the same display, and options for Bluetooth phone connectivity, media, and navigation. They have the same “Hot Hands” feature that heats the handlebars. The control layout on both handles is the same. There is just no clutch, rope start, or choke lever.

Looking at them side by side, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between the gas and electric Grand Touring models — unless their engines were idling.

Ski-Doo Grand Touring Electric Snowmobiles: Who Are They For?

Ski Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles; (Photo/Ski Doo)

At present, the Ski-Doo Grand Touring electric snowmobiles are for beginners who want to rent a sled through one of Uncharted Society’s select outfitters. They’re for people who might not be super-familiar with snowmobiles or those who have shied away from them because of their big, loud combustion engines. Ski-Doo wants this to be an approachable option for people to engage with snowmobiling in a new way.

These electric snowmobiles are not for backcountry skiers and snowboarders who want to find the deepest pow in the biggest mountains. Nor are they for snowmobile tourers who venture off the map on long, sometimes multiday expeditions. They aren’t even for casual recreationalists who like to tool around on their own. And they definitely aren’t workhorses like the snowmobiles you’ll see riding around Ski Resorts.

Not yet, at least. Maybe someday there will be electric snowmobiles that can handle those kinds of activities. As Ski-Doo explained, its electric snowmobiles will continue improving as lithium-ion battery technology improves. And judging by BRP’s goal to have 50% of its products be electric by 2035, it’s clearly committed to the path.

Ski-Doo is not alone, either. Other brands are making different kinds of electric snow machines. The e-vehicle wave has hit the snow slopes. As I walked away from Grand Adventures and its shiny lineup of electric snowmobiles, I couldn’t help but feel a little hopeful. It may still be years away, but electric snowmobiles will eventually enter the backcountry. Ski-Doo just took a big step toward making that a reality.

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