It's interesting to see the snowmobile world evolve year after year. Of all the 2021 models at Ski-Doo, the one I was most looking forward to testing was the Backcountry Sport. Certainly not because it is the most powerful, or the most sophisticated, but then, why? Because it is one of the most complete and versatile machines you can buy on a moderate budget. For me, snowmobiling is not so much about having the coolest instruments on board or having 200 HP or a turbo, but about riding in freedom in nature. I've had a love for snowmobiling since I was a kid. It's never been about being the fastest on two skis or being the one to climb the highest, it's been about riding free in the snow. Don't get me wrong, the Backcountry Sport is a capable and amazing machine, here is the recap of my long term test.
I have to say, I'm not the best rider in the world, but this snowmobile often made me feel like a hero! Light and maneuverable, the BC Sport is impressive to ride. Off-road, its shorter tunnel (146) gives it agility and fluidity. It is very easy to tilt this snowmobile, do donuts and other maneuvers. In fact, that's what really won me over on this model. This machine follows your gaze and doesn't require too much effort to engage the movements. Putting the machine in sidehill is quite easy, but the maneuver requires some slight corrections of the handlebars to be maintained over long distances. In general, you get used to it very quickly and this snowmobile is really easy to ride. It is not as easy to overturn as a Summit for example, which is an advantage for new riders, as the machine will be more stable under your feet. On the other hand, it will require a little more effort at each maneuver to get the machine in position. It's a compromise, but I must admit that it's a minor one, I find the Backcountry Sport very easy to ride and its agility surprised me.
On the trail, the Backcountry usually does well and this is the case with the sport version. I have to say that to be comfortable, I recommend adjusting the suspension to suit your activities. This detail made a big difference in comfort and performance on the trail. I will come back with more detailed adjustments, for now, let's focus on the BC's riding experience. First, I find that the 38/40-inch configuration is less stable than the wider Renegade ride. This isn't huge either, but it will take a while to get used to in terms of confidence when turning aggressively. Control-wise, I have no complaints, as the RAS3 offers a precise and responsive ride. Again, you just have to look past the turn and the snowmobile will follow. As for the torque through the track, it is less present than on the Expedition Sport that I tested last year. It did not cause me any trouble during my rides. The DS2 ski is sometimes inclined to chase the tracks of other snowmobiles, this happened to me when the trail conditions were favorable to this phenomenon. It's not excessive, you just have to keep that in mind and stay calm when it happens. In short, the BC is not as stable as a dedicated trail machine, but does the job very well. This is a hybrid, so no choice to live with the trade-off. In my opinion, the minor inconveniences are quickly offset by the machine's off-trail capabilities.
Our amazing low-budget machine has heart! It surprised many. No, it's not a bomb, but it does take to the snow with aplomb and lightness. I was stunned several times. Sometimes, it requires to be generous on the throttle, but honestly, I've been on some good slopes with a lot of snow. Most of the time our little BC ended up at the top. Only in the extreme did we have to pull on her skids. I came to the conclusion that the places where this snowmobile can access are very varied. The only places where this one was not at ease: in the trees, on a steep side with a lot of snow. Otherwise, if you have room to keep your momentum, the machine will go up. Since the machine is very agile, I find it a bit more "forgiving" to make quick maneuvers to keep your momentum. However, if the terrain forces you to stop nose up in a lot of snow: expect to shovel or pull on the skids. We don't have a Summit with 165 HP that we can overpower when the skill is lacking. So it's important to plan your tracks, to keep good momentum when the terrain is steep. On flat ground this machine floats on the surface…it's almost absurd. It happened very often, that I was riding around 15-20 km/h while doing serpentine maneuvers on the surface in a lot of snow. The BC floated with ease even at low speeds. Overall, if you don't plan on being in very rough and difficult areas and in the trees most of the time, the Backcountry Sport is a good machine for you. Note that the 2021 model we tested comes with the Cobra track with 1.6 inches of crampons. The 2022 model will be available in 1.35 and 2 inches. Personally, I would opt for the 2 inch without hesitation, even for the trails. Especially in the eastern part of the province, on the North Shore and in the Mountains, where there are many snow conditions. This bike met my needs and gave me a great way to learn to ride off-trail.
The 600 EFI on paper may not be as attractive as the ETECs from a technology or performance standpoint. But what about performance in the field? First of all, the engine response is immediate, the engine is very responsive. I loved this aspect of the engine, it makes it easy to commit to maneuvers, because you can rely directly on the power of this mill. The killer question: does it have enough power? At 85HP, the 600 EFI is certainly not the most aggressive engine on the market, however, it is strong enough to get the job done and then some. If I compare it to the 900 ACE, the 600 EFI sleds are much lighter. It doesn't take off as strong at low rpm as the 900, however it responds directly to the controls without delay. This quick response and lightweight design made me prefer my experience on the 600 EFI. I also don't have to worry about tipping the snowmobile over to get unstuck when I get stuck on a slope. It takes a lot less effort to unhook the sled.
With this engine, I'm not worried about tipping the snowmobile over to get unstuck when I get stuck on a slope
In terms of off-road performance, I must admit that I have used this engine to its full capacity on several occasions during steep climbs. On the other hand, as mentioned above, we can go anywhere we want with this machine with a few exceptions. In the case of extremely deep snow on a slope with a lot of trees close together, I would not recommend you to venture there. However, my advice would be the same with a Backcountry X equipped with an ETEC 850 engine, which is why I think this snowmobile has enough power, especially at the price point it enters the market. The snowmobile is light, agile and climbs well on the snow surface. As mentioned earlier, I am not an extreme rider, but the Backcountry 600 EFI has allowed me to explore and push my limits as a rider. I believe that for someone who wants to explore and go off the beaten path, this snowmobile is perfect. Let's not forget that we are dealing with a hybrid snowmobile and despite that, it is quite impressive. One of our collaborators was so charmed that he bought one. We're talking about a guy who rides 165HP+ mountain machines every year. So you'll understand that it's easy for me to recommend this engine in this snowmobile. As far as fuel consumption off-road is concerned, I did 20-23 L/100 km. If I compare myself with my riding partners, I always used less gas than them at the pumps. So, it's not so bad, even if the figure may seem a bit high, just remember that this snowmobile spent its winter in the Chic-Chocs.
On the trail, the 600 EFI is really impressive. I don't think I ran out of power. Acceleration is straight and punchy. Power is very linear and spread out over the entire RPM range, so it's easy to feel in control. On a lake, my speed record is 144 km/h, which is not bad for an 85HP machine. From a fuel consumption point of view, it's around 16-18 liters per 100 KM in my case. I should mention that I'm a pretty aggressive driver on acceleration, so your results may vary. I got 200 km on a full tank of gas in snowy conditions, so it's possible to do a little better. Finally, I'm very happy with the 600 EFI's performance on the trail, it's impressive on that surface.
Personally, for 2021 and 2022, I find the Backcountry Sport to be one of the best values on the market. I agree that the Polaris EVO's are less expensive to buy, but they are also less advanced and less powerful than the BC Sport. On the Blast/Venom side, the machines are interesting: equipped with a fun 65HP single-cylinder, with a small chassis that makes you feel in control, an agile ride, but also a price that is really too high to compete with the Ski-Doo offer. BRP offers a full-size snowmobile, which can appeal to a wider audience. In general, the sport model is offered with the same basic features as the standard version, but with a smaller choice of engines. There is less high-end technology on the sport models, but that doesn't make them any less attractive. The BC Sport has the same suspension, chassis and track as the Backcountry. It comes with a 4.5-inch digital display, which is efficient and simple. Also equipped with an electric starter, a safety cord, multi-level heated handles and reverse gear. It's a slightly simplified version, but very effective. Personally, I like it, no fuss, we focus on the pleasure of riding on the snow, all at a fair price.
As for my off-trail adjustment, on the Cmotion at the rear, the first shock at the third position, the rear shock at position 1 and the strap at the longest. The skis to the rider's liking. With this configuration, the snowmobile is agile, transfers well and wants to ride on snow. The skis are adjusted to the narrowest (38 inches).
On the trail, ideally tighten the belt in the second or third position, you can also reduce the tension on the first shock. The rear shock can be tightened to reduce the transfer and I put it in position 3. The skis are adjusted to the widest position (40 inches) and the front shocks can be tightened to avoid diving in turns. Adjust according to your weight and desired firmness.
Note that the belt on a 600 EFI arrives at the height of the secondary pulley and not above.
Note that the belt on a 600 EFI arrives at the height of the secondary pulley
I would feel greedy to ask for many changes on this model since it is offered at a very competitive price. However, there is no BRP smart key, it is replaced by a traditional key and a low-end security cord. I actually like the cable, it's the connector portion that I don't like at all. This one looks like a little plastic push button and doesn't seem super sturdy to me. I would have preferred to find the usual BRP keys. One thing I would have appreciated, and this for all Ski-Doo snowmobiles, is the addition of snow scrapers at the factory. It seems to me that offering these little scrapers would not be that expensive and would probably save the manufacturer warranty costs by protecting more machines from overheating. That being said, my test snowmobile did not overheat all winter. Once, on a certain ride, it was eager to get back into the deep snow, but nothing more.
Who is the Backcountry Sport for? Mainly for solo riders. If you plan to have a passenger on a regular basis, I suggest the Expedition Sport which comes with similar capabilities and a dual bench. The BC Sport is very versatile and easy to operate, so it's easy to recommend to a beginner. It is also a machine suitable for the intermediate rider, who will be able to practice his basic skills, evolve his practice on and off the track. An experienced rider can have fun with this one if he is willing to lose some HP. Personally, I believe that he will gain by refining his riding techniques without extra power.
Finally, the Backcountry Sport has proven to be a fantastic ride. It is agile, adventurous, versatile, affordable and competent in most terrains you will encounter in Quebec. I can't recommend it enough. It may not be the best equipped or most capable snowmobile, but I'm sure there aren't many that will give you as much for your money. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the folks at Mini Mécanik Sports in Rimouski for this long term test. On that note, I wish you a good season and see you on the snow.