Standard, unmodified snowmobiles can often exceed 100 miles per hour, but stock sleds are not the quickest thing on skis. Racing snowmobiles can go over 200 mph easily. Once you cut the weight, add turbochargers, and make other modifications and upgrades, you can easily reach your model’s top speed.
Why are snowmobiles so fast? Read on, and I’ll share everything you need to understand about fast sleds and what makes them go.
Snowmobiles are fast because they have powerful engines and a relatively low power-to-weight ratio. Sled engines have high displacement and burn fuel rapidly and efficiently to power the track. Unlike fully enclosed cars, a snowmobile’s open-to-the-elements design and sleek style are ideal for moving fast so long as there aren’t too many sharp corners.
What Makes A Snowmobile So Fast
The displacement in your engine is what makes a snowmobile so fast. The size or capacity of your engine is indicative of the total volume of your cylinders. Typically, you’ll see this expressed as cubic centimeters.
CATI or Careers for the Automotive and Transportation Industries aptly describes it, “The bigger the engine displacement volume, the more air that can be pushed into the cylinders. This boosts the combustion process and allows the engine to generate more power.”
A more straightforward way to describe it would be to say that larger cylinders burn more fuel to make your snowmobile fast.
The downside to more displacement is trading speed for fuel efficiency. There’s no way around it because more air volume means increased combustion, which uses fuel.
How To Make A Snowmobile Go Faster
While most snowmobiles accelerate faster than motorcycles, not all of them are ‘fast’ by sled standards. The type of engine you have makes a significant difference.
Below is a list of what to invest in and upgrade if you want a faster snowmobile.
- Displacement – Displacement is everything. The higher the displacement, the faster you’ll go.
- Chargers – Superchargers or turbochargers can give your machine more get up and go.
- Cooling Systems – Fan-cooled sleds typically cannot keep up with their liquid-cooled companions.
- Weight – Losing just a few pounds off your stock snowmobile can improve handling, reduce fuel use, and help you move faster.
- Fuel Injection – EFI or fuel-injected engines exert more power than carbureted models.
How Fast Is The Average Snowmobile
Average snowmobiles come in two different speed categories. Standard trail riding snowmobiles can vary from 90 to 125 miles an hour at the top end.
However, when you open the throttle, racing sleds can reach 150 to 200 mph speeds.
The engine and several other factors affect the final top speed, like how much your snowmobile weighs.
Lighter machines with more powerful engines and well-maintained parts will always move faster than heavy machines with relatively smaller engines.
Likewise, switching out stock parts for high-performance replacements and mods can also give you a little boost.
Why All Snowmobiles Are Fast
Snowmobiles are so fast because they need to be. Whether you’re getting a run-up so you can tackle a steep hill or staying ahead of an avalanche, there are plenty of times a sled needs to move quickly.
Even wildlife like moose and bears give sledders an excellent reason to increase their power.
Fortunately, bears and moose usually only run about 35 mph; even a slower sled can outpace that.
Fastest Snowmobile Top Speed
The Guinness Book of World Records says the fastest snowmobile ever recorded was flying along at 277.13 km/h (172.2 mph).
Canadian Chris Hanson has held the record since 2004. However, they also noted that this was a prototype and heavily modified to reach those speeds.
It can be hard to tell which snowmobiles go fastest since 2-stroke engines in smaller sleds often put out more power.
When you have a 2-stroke engine, combustion happens with every crankshaft revolution. Additionally, 2-stroke power is more instantaneous and available to the machine.
Large snowmobiles with massive engines aren’t necessarily the fastest. Little snowmobiles often sport a powerful 2-stroke engine.
Between their minimal size and subsequent weight reduction to the aerodynamics of riding a smaller, sleeker sled, you can gain a lot of velocity.
How Fast Can A Snowmobile Go On Water
The fastest speed ever recorded for a snowmobile going over water is 87.7 mph.
Unfortunately, most riders don’t record their speed as they move across the water because the goal is distance.
In 2017 Aki Pesonen of Finland traveled 155.8 miles (250.8 km) over water on their 2016 Ski-Doo Summit 800 E-TEC and created a new world record.
A sled has enough power to propel itself as the skis effectively push down on the water, using it like snow or other surfaces to gain traction, but it takes talent and good balance to stay there.
To move across water, snowmobiles must adhere to a minimum speed rather than a maximum. Any sled doing less than 15 to 16 mph will not stay afloat.
Regardless of its velocity, a snowmobile can’t just travel on top of water indefinitely. This form of controlled, powered hydroplaning is a learned skill.
If you stop practicing or burn out, you will likely wreck your snowmobile, and you may even sink, endangering your own life.
It takes just 5 seconds of inactivity for a snowmobile to sink completely.
The idea of just pouring on the speed and turning into a jetski is entertaining but far from the reality of riding your snowmobile over open water.
You’ll need to factor in the machine, rider, and equipment or supplies when calculating how fast to travel over water on a snowmobile.
Sleds must go at least 5 mph for every 150 lbs of weight to stay up, and most successful sledders who hydroplane across the water have heavily modified (lightened) sleds.
Science Buzz did the math for your speed to skip just a few feet of water.
“The distance of water a snowmobile can cross is 2″, plus 1/2″ for every 5 mph over the minimum skip-speed. If the… snowmobile was going 45 mph, it could cross 3 1/2″ of water…”
Helpful Tips To Know About Why Snowmobiles Are So Fast
Snowmobiles lend themselves to speed easily. These clever, low-to-the-ground machines can be surprisingly aerodynamic and lightweight.
You get a quick ride when you combine low weight with an efficient engine and plenty of room for air displacement.
Here are more helpful tips to know about why snowmobiles are so fast.
- A fast snowmobile is a lot of fun, but if you want to keep yours moving, proper maintenance is essential. Minor problems like dirty carburetors and gunked-up air intakes can lead to a host of issues, including less engine efficiency and slower speeds.
- Weight changes will affect how your snowmobile handles, leading to speed gains. Minor upgrades like a better can or a lighter set of gears can be surprisingly effective in coaxing out a little more speed when you need it most.
- Using the right fuel can also change how fast your snowmobile runs. For some models, any 87 octane or higher gas with no ethanol will do. However, performance (higher-speed) sleds often run on a 91-octane non-oxygenated fuel.
- Despite their incredible speed, snowmobiles can be tricky to maneuver. Taking a corner at 95 mph isn’t a good idea, even if you’re a professional. Always give yourself plenty of room to move around if you plan to test the speed limitations of your sled.
Snowmobiles are meant to go fast, but how fast you go depends on many factors.
For example, the engine type, how well it is maintained, and how much space it has for oxygen displacement.
Faster sleds are always lightweight, and the quickest are modified racing sleds. With enough weight reduction and mods, a snowmobile can even speed along the surface of liquid water.
However, it is your skill as much as raw power that allows a sledder to achieve breakneck speeds, so take your time working up to it as you tackle practical skills like how to corner while moving faster.