It's already time to give my end of season impressions about the famous Yamaha Mountain Max 2021. Probably due to a late winter, I feel like we only got our hands on this beast a few weeks ago.
The Mountain Max has been getting positive feedback from people all season long with its absolutely beautiful look. Even the cashier at the Tim Hortons drive-thru took the time to tell me how great the look was! Unfortunately, after only a few rides, we lost one of the stickers on the tunnel. The next week, the same stickers on the other side disappeared as well.
Oops, we lost our stickers
Talking about the quality of finishing, I notice that the plastic which covers the middle of the handlebar is of a questionable quality, especially at the sides. We also notice that gas hoses are under the left side panel, but are exposed to the weather of the off-road. Moreover, the rear pad is made of very rigid plastic. When you are getting deep in off-road, this gets stretched into a position that doesn't seem to have been designed for it. I don't expect it to survive several seasons.
On the safety side, the engine cut-off cord is standard, which is great! However, I found it too "loose". When I sidehill on the left side, sometimes the cord goes behind the handlebars and limits my movements or catches the brake.
When you start the engine, it doesn't take long. A fraction of a second and the 800cc engine purrs and is ready for action. The CTEC2 has nothing to be ashamed of when compared to the competition. It offers exceptional performance, especially at low rpm. What a stroke of luck, this is exactly what you need in the mountains! Yamaha did a remarkable job of calibrating the system. Finding the right momentum at the throttle is very easy.
Right on the pad !
Although it was introduced a few seasons ago, the monorail is still a mystery in the mountain snowmobile industry, at least for me. Is it as revolutionary as it's made out to be? One thing is for certain: you have to adapt! First of all, if you do a lot of trails, slow down on the curves! The monorail introduces a "plunge" effect on the opposite side where you turn. This feeling is also carried over to off-trail riding when you are riding in unsurfaced areas. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract this a bit by riding with your feet and trying to never have both skis on the ground. Even if there is only 6" of ground, don't hesitate to counter-steer when it's time to turn, it's really the key.
To take full advantage of the monorail and platform, you have to play with the QS3 shocks. Personally, I ended up putting them on the hardest setting to make the front suspension as stiff as possible. While the QS3s are easy to use, the right side is harder to access because the pawl faces the suspension spring.
Where the Mountain Max really shines is in very deep snow. In more than 3 feet of snow, it's a pleasure to drive, and even more so once you're used to the monorail's behavior. It is also very easy to drive and turn using only your feet and a slight weight transfer. In my opinion, this is really where this snowmobile excels the most!
For 2021, one of the big differences between the Mountain Max and its Arctic Cat alter ego is the introduction of a Yamaha made ski in the front. This one offers a very good flotation and always wants to stay on top of the snow.
The sidehill is also a nice surprise. Although the machine tries to get back up as soon as it gets a chance, it is easy to control and is very precise, predictable and enjoyable.
The Mountain Max in sidehill
Unfortunately, we have to make a note about its behavior on the trails. As a mountain snowmobile, it is expected that the Mountain Max will not excel on the trails. We found its behavior in curves very dangerous. The monorail is very unpredictable, so you have to be very careful. Moreover, the track is extremely noisy and vibrating after 80km/h.
In my opinion, to reach the full potential of the monorail, it needs a new platform. The Ascender platform introduced by Arctic Cat for the 2018 model year was not a complete overhaul and its design could benefit from some redesign. At the very least, the monorail could be accompanied by a new front suspension geometry to reduce the feeling of dive in curves. Also, as mentioned in our first impressions, the entertainment system is getting old and the controls are not at all adapted to mountain driving.
Still, the monorail makes the snowmobile very easy to ride on the side!
So, do I recommend the Yamaha Mountain Max? The answer is not simple. If you're new to off-roading and want a predictable snowmobile that will give you confidence, or if you regularly ride the trail, this is not the snowmobile for you. However, if you are an experienced rider who rides mostly in very deep snow and want an agile machine that you can push hard, the Mountain Max becomes a snowmobile you should consider for your next purchase.