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Sno Pro 500 Part III

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 in Colorado

In Part I of this series we illustrated why motors like the 600 consumer laydown twin and 800 H.O. won’t make appearances in the Sno Pro chassis.

In Part II, we uncovered the reasons why Cat didn’t incorporate these dimensionally-larger engines in the Sno Pro chassis, and I speculated why the company won’t re-engineer the chassis and plastic to accept them.

Here, in Part III, I want explain my own time aboard the Sno Pro 500, put it in a historical perspective, then perhaps challenge some of the assumptions we tend to make.

Last winter I logged a few hours of seat time aboard a prototype Sno Pro 500 in Maple Lake, Minn., and Grand Lake, Colo., both of which hosted snowmobile media events that produced all of the magazine coverage that you’ll read this year.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 at Snow Shoot

What was immediately apparent each time I rode it was its manners over anything rough, from trail chop to actually holes and jumps (in Maple Lake, Arctic Cat created a bump course for testing, with a full range of everything you’d encounter between small stutter bumps and massive rollers).

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 in Colorado

It’s well balanced, placing the rider in the neutral, middle portion of the chassis. Seat height is tall, especially compared with the Firecat and M/Crossfire chassis, with the easiest transitioning from standing-to-seating (and vice versa) of any Arctic Cat I’ve ridden. The seat is narrower than those on the Twin Spar, something that my 31-in. inseam legs appreciated greatly.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500

Steering is easy, although not quite as easy as the Twin Spar. The handlebars will feel familiar to anyone who’s ridden a Twin Spar, and their height works well for both riding seated and standing.

The combination of suspension geometry, calibration and the new deeper-keel plastic skis deliver precise cornering that’s slightly more positive than 2009-and-newer Twin Spar sleds and far more positive than ’08-and-older Twin Spar. Those who, like me, use the ZR as the yardstick for cornering precision will not be disappointed, especially considering that the center-of-gravity is significantly higher.

Everything about this chassis, including its 64-lb. reduced weight advantage over the Twin Spar equivalent, makes it a better sled for aggressive riders.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 in Colorado

The skis are easily visible and the view off the front of the sled is unencumbered, with no distracting, in-your-line-of-sight plastic.

The suspension action was absolutely spot-on when riding hard, and gave me complete confidence to hit anything I ever encountered on the trail, at any speed.  Kirk Hibbert did the shock calibration for this sled and aimed it at cross-country race action and Junior level snocross. But caution: If all I did was cruise stutter-bump trails at 30 mph, it’s too stiff.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 in Colorado


Elements like the rough fit-and-finish of the cowling, the ultra-stiff and wide running boards (with the exposed chaincase and the gnarly traction plates), raspy engine sound (it seems louder than an F5) and the firm seat foam make me feel like I’m on a sled whose purpose is entirely functional.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500

I don’t know if it’s the Wilwood brake or the fact that it’s clamping a jackshaft-mounted rotor, but the braking performance on this machine is exactly what I want, and what I’ve missed since the ZR days. Truly one-finger braking.

Wilwood brake

As for the engine… well… please indulge me for a moment.

Last year my everyday sled was an F5, which has the same 85-hp engine that powers the Sno Pro. Three years ago I had a Sabercat 500, also with this engine. Over the past dozen years I’ve had ZR 500s, ZL 500s, Z 440 fanners and the occasional 600-class F/Firecat/ZR thrown in for good measure.

Two years ago I raced the I-500 aboard an F5 and was convinced that, had I raced a 130-hp Sno Pro in the same conditions, it would have scared the hell out of me too frequently to have enjoyed myself.

I also vividly remember the 20-year span from 1990 to today, including the 81-hp 550 liquid twin and 91-hp 580 twin, both of which gave me and thousands of other riders (and racers) all the thrill they were looking for. I remember when cross-country racing in the early 1990s was aboard 65-68 hp sleds, and nobody complained about going too slow.

Clearly, I’m not a rider who demands the highest available horsepower to have fun.

Which brings me back to the Sno Pro 500. For wooded trails and ditch riding, it goes as fast as I personally care to go. Yes, for lakes and the long/straight trails, more hp would be great.

But on the forest trails that constitute much of Northern Minnesota where I ride, I’m certain that I can ride harder and longer on this than I could if it were 160 hp. And I’m willing to bet anyone reading this would see the same result.

At the Arctic Cat media event in Maple Lake – which hosted every snowmobile magazine and television journalist in the business and had available prototype 2010 CFR 800s, F8 Sno Pros, Z1 Turbo Sno Pros and all the other big iron – the most popular sled was the Sno Pro 500. Interestingly enough, it was ALWAYS in the pack, never trailing, despite the VERY high speeds that always define these events. And this was on mostly wide-open trails and ditch.

For riders who have absolutely convinced themselves that anything less than 140 hp is lame and uninteresting, the stock Sno Pro 500 isn’t for you. But for the rider who isn’t beholden to the almighty horsepower, and who likes to ride as hard the last two hours of the day as they do the first two, this sled is the ticket.

Its $8,299 MSRP is $1,600 less than an F6 and $2,100 (or more) less than anything with an 800 engine, making it all the more attractive in my eyes.

Coming in a few days: the final installment of the Sno Pro 500 Series, in which I gather all the available data on the aftermarket options.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500




  1. Anyone know where I could possibly test drive one of these this winter. I know my dealer has 1 left, but once snow fly’s I dont it will be around for me to take for a ride. So if anyone knows of a place please let me know

  2. I can almost sense a sigh of relief during these hard economic times from the competition, that cat has somehow put themselves into a position to not be able to install and market a larger cc engine in this ultra light weight, state of the art, bullet proof, race proven, chassis directly from the factory and never will be able to… that so many of us have watched t-train and others dominate on for years.. this has to be one of the most admired machines cat has ever produced.

    Great Article!!!!! I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to ride one of these great machines but it sure is fun to read about those who have!!

  3. As for the question, is 85 HP enough, I will be testing that myself this season. The last 14,000 miles I’ve put on snowmobiling have been on an 03 F7 and an 06 X-Fire 700. I’m a guy that has 4 drag racing lawnmowers, one of which is powered by a CBR600 crotch rocket engine. This season I will be on one of those Cross Country prepped 2008 F5’s. I did spend some time on the wife’s F5 last season, and had a blast on the trails. Great gas mileage and less expensive injection oil are 2 other positive attributes to consider. I love the thrill of drag racing my buddies, or screaming across the lake as much as the next guy, but 95% of the time, I’m on a winding trail. I don’t know yet if 85 HP will satisfy me, but I am excited to ride it and find out. If it is, a Sno Pro 500 could be my next ride.

  4. Roger: I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on your F5. And to you, flintstone, Alex and anyone else…If you’re ever in the Twin Cities area and you want to come ride with me, I’ll gladly hand you my Sno Pro 500 to ride as long as you like. Bot you must ride it for a few hours though, because a few acceleration blasts on ANY sled isn’t enough of a test. And Flintstone…I suspect you’re right about the relief other OEMs have about the Sno Pro confined to the 500 engine.

  5. John,

    Great series on the SP 500. Hey, I’m just down the road in New Prague. When the snow flies, shoot me an email. Let’s go riding, sometime. Do you like to ride ditches? I know of some really nice ones down here that don’t see the traffic HWY 13 sees. The ditches are where all the snow ends up around here, anyway….We can get a few riders together and hit it for a day.


  6. Flintstone – I agree, but see this the exact opposite as you. I bet other OEMs are wishing they had an ultra lightweight, state of the art, bullet proof, race proven, chassis directly from the factory at an affordable price in this 85hp category.

  7. I pick up my SnoPro 5 this weekend. My winter weekends are spent riding with guys on 800’s and 1000’s. Should be an interesting season—BRING ON THE SNOW!!!!!

  8. 7999 and on the floor at the dealer I visited today, got really excited looking at it, but I just can’t get past the fact that it has a 85 horse engine in it.

    I will go visit another dealer tomorrow and perhaps?? dang I hope I don’t buy one!!lol

  9. crusher, from what im gettin ,the EPA made cat do the black on the race sleds to keep the UV rays from damaging the clear tank material that used to be used , it kinda sucks but hey we will all adapt.

  10. i was sitting here and i was just thinking about how much attention this sled is getting since it was released, its actually amazing.the only other time i remember a sled getting this much attention was back in 2003 when skidoo released the REV platform and i remember people swearing up and down they did not like the seating position and would never ride people wont ride a traditional rider position just a few years later,lmao !!! the polaris rush is getting attention as well but this little 500 seems to be the talk of the town and the internet.congrats to cat !! and congrats to polaris for trying something different as well !!!!!!!!! i love seeing how our sleds have progressed from boggie wheels,leaf springs, and premix ………to fuel injection , oil injection, 4 stroke motors and all the luxury we have now……….YET WE STILL ***** AND COMPLAIN!!! ???? why is that?

  11. 8K for a 500? 8k is what people complain about. The prices of the new sleds are rediculous. My pay rate isn’t keeping pace with the ever increasing cost of this sport. Snowmobiling is a rich man’s sport…I’m not rich.

  12. your not paying 8000 for a 500 your paying 8 for technology ………….do you understand what it takes to build a snowmobile? computer design , manufacturing , insurance ,payroll, basic overhead costs, materials, yada yada yada , ……………..look at what the “500” has to make it run, its all computer controlled just like a car………….i think 8000 is a fair price for this chassis design and engine ……..but hey thats me. you think snowmobiling is expensive ? atv’s are almost as much , pwc are the same or even more , and cars are outrageous …….everything is expensive when you think of it……

  13. The black fuel tank does present a bit of a problem for cross country racers that need to make a fuel stop. With the black tank you can not see how much fuel is in the tank. You will have to take your chances and judge how much to put in and run the risk of not having enough to make the next fuel stop or over fill the tank and make a mess. The 500 does have a fuel level indicator on the speedometer, I am not sure if the 600 has one or not, we have not started ours yet. For our 600 I ordered a fuel tank from an 09 so that we have the clear tank. At the end of the season I will take it out and put the black one back in. If I had know that the tank was black I would have pulled the clear tank off the 09 before we sold it. My youngest son is racing the 500 in cross country and will not need to be refueled during any race except the I-500.

    I will have to say that after riding the SP600 last year it is an awesome sled and the SP500 will be every bit at good.

  14. snopro, I understand all of what you pointed out. I work in design engineering/manufacturing and I understand the costs of developing a new product. There are also a many ways to cut costs and improve profit margins. Looking at the design of this sled closely. There looks to be fewer parts, thermo formed parts(cheaper than injection molding), no diamond drive, no 2012 EPA compliant mote. Besides the geometry of the front end and some new plastic pieces. What exactly is all the costs on developement you speak of? The rest of the technology you point out is all “off the shelf” knowledge for this sled. This sled was designed in record time, as well. That no doubt kept costs down, too. I certainly wouldn’t come out and say that I agree with the manufacturers pricing! They need to look at cutting costs to the consumer. I stand on the point that a vehicle you may have the opportunity to ride 2-3 months in a year, depending on your location and snow conditions, 8K is too expensive for a “500”. : )

  15. Sales volume… the 600-lb. gorilla in the “cost” room. Emissions compliance costs… the 200-lb. gorilla that only entered the room a handful of years ago and that never used to exist. Look at the size of a new sled compared to a 2000 model year… the extra material alone means increased costs. Arctic Cat (and all the OEMs) would love nothing more than to offer a 140-hp sled at 6k retail and still make their margins, but it will never happen because the costs associated with getting such a sled to market make it impossible. The Sno Pro 500 has the same MSRP as the Yamaha Phazer RTX, a sled with the good shock package and roughly equal horsepower. I too want the option of purchasing a new sled for 6k that isn’t a deeply-discounted carryover. If this sled ever surfaces, it will be smaller, with less hp than 85, fewer features, no rebuildable shocks, an off-the-shelf headlight, etc… It will be WAY more similar to a 1988 Jag than a 2008 F6.

  16. The size of a new sled is a interesting point. The F-series is a large bulky machine. A lot of components/bells and whistles, etc. A lot of injection molded parts, not thermo formed. The Sno Pro chassis is pared down in comparison. Now, the materials involved in a 2000 model year sled and the new sno pro is also interesting comparison. Hood size alone would be a good starting point. The hood for a 2000 ZR has WAY more material then the current Sno Pro “hood”. Smaller hood, smaller tooling, less material, LESS COST. Bellypans of a 2000 ZR, front bulkhead, gas tank, seat, windshield, etc. The Sno Pro is smaller is all aspects. The motors. Neither sled year is in compliance with latest required EPA regulation. Except the sled you compare it to, the Phazer RTX. So, I’m not quite seeing the material comparison and the EPA stuff on this particular 8K sled. Would the Phazer RTX be a better buy due to the fact it’s EPA compliant? Just making conversation….We know there’s plenty of hold over sleds at the factory that have around 140HP and could probably be purchased for around 6-7K. Maybe less. Those aren’t 88 Jag equivalents, either. Do you think all those sleds sitting at the factory are the net result of the 800lb gorilla you speak of?

  17. We’re having some site trouble which is preventing me from posting my loooonnnggg response to Todd. Hopefully will get fixed soon.

  18. Just a note regarding non-current sleds at Thief River Falls…As of mid-afternoon today they are down to 78 units. I am sure the number of available carry-over sleds in TRF will always rise-and-fall due to circumstances on any given day, but, I dont recall the number being this low for years.

  19. Tom, I hope those numbers are accurate, for Arctic Cat’s sake….I’d like to see Arctic Cat around for a looooooonnngggg time….Bottom line, I don’t like how high the prices have gotten…..Have a great day! 🙂

  20. Many separate topics in one conversation…LOL! SLED SIZE: The Sno Pro has many parts whose tooling is cheap, but its piece-part-costs are very high. Was never meant to be a high production sled. Compared to a ZR, the Sno Pro HOOD is indeed smaller, but as an entire Sno Pro snowmobile it’s larger and with other more expensive components…track, shocks, skidframe, two headlights instead of one, PRS steering, extruded spindles, clutches, tunnel (and its associated supports/foot traction). Of course, the costs would decrease on many Sno Pro components if the company sold 40,000 of them like they did ZR/ZL, rather than the 2-3,000 that constitute the 2010 build.

  21. COMPLIANCE: individual engines don’t have to be compliant, rather, the entire fleet must. Emissions is a department within Arctic Cat, with employees, 3-4 dedicated dyno cells and associated monitoring equipment, all of which cost money. The entire cost of making a fleet comply absolutely adds cost to every engine, even if a particular engine like the 500AA doesn’t itself meet the threshold.

  22. PHAZER COMPARISON: Whether the Phazer or SP5 is a “better buy” as you ask…that’s for the individual to decide. Personally, I don’t believe that most sledders care whether an engine is “clean” or “dirty,” at least not the relatively small differences between the Phazer and SP5. I do believe they care about performance and the riding experience, and in my opinion there is no comparison between these two sleds.

  23. 6-7K HOLDOVERS: just because these exist doesn’t mean it’s fiscally sustainable. It isn’t. I think high carryover is the result of many factors, including cost, styling, the weather, kids’ sports programs, ATVs and other factors. But undoubtedly the largest factor is weather. Midwest has suffered too many crummy winters over the past 12 years, so now the annual sales are half of what they were in 1998. Manufacturers overbuilt, which has created the excess inventory, but even still…lower production means higher per-unit cost. Bottom line… MSRP of 130-plus hp snowmobiles is over 10K because that’s what’s required to stay in business and be profitable. If any OEM could sell such a machine for 6K MSRP and be profitable, they would.

  24. John, you are thorough…Holy Sh…LOL. Geesh, I was just wanted to make a little conversation :). I’ll go lay down by my dish now but, I do have more to say on this subject….Especially the about mfg. numbers decreasing and prices increasing…..

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the shop comparing the designs of the Crossfire, F-series and SP5….The SP5 is a very “optimized” design. The engineers and designers should be patting themselves on the back. I sure hope Cat keeps progressing this design for the future….I’d like one someday but, it’ll have to be a good used one…. The manufacturers are definitely between a rock and a hard place, no doubt….I’ll leave it at that…Hey, have a great week!

  25. Todd: don’t lay down by the dish, keep pushing! That’s what this place is for. I certainly don’t have all the answers and would love to hear your knowledge about mfg numbers. BTW, there’s a great article on sled prices by Pat Bourgeois in the newest issue of Snow Goer. Definitely worth reading.

  26. Not on the 500-but I was told by a reputable source last friday there were close to 900 non-current units at the factory, and when I was there 2 weeks ago to pick up race sleds–there were crates stacked 5 high everywhere of non-current, which supports the 900 plus number I heard–there were over 78 non-currents (prob closer to 150) UNCRATED alone. Either they had one heck of a fire-sale the last two weeks or……??????

  27. Hey acsnoracer, If you picked up race sleds, then you were at the race shop, which is connected to “salvage”, not the backyard of Arctic Cat. “Salvage” is where dealers can buy other dealer repo’d inventory, media, photoshoot, engineering, field test and race sled units.

  28. So, how many of you fella’s actually bought one? I know for a FACT that LESS WIND RESISTANCE is key to getting more out of this BONE STOCK 85 HP package (been there, done that). This sled as John Sandberg says, is no comparison for the Yamaha Phazer, the Phazer is left sucking “hind tittie” wherever the “comparisons” occur. This sleds suspension/geometry pakage makes it literally fly across terrain quicker and faster than later model ZR440 SnoPros were noted for being able to do. Nuff said,,,,,,

  29. So on the power front, I went from a ext580 to the awesome 97zr580, to a 99 black magic snopro 711, now i have a zr 800 cc, piped ported etc. that i have not even riden yet. I have plenty of fun on my wifes zl 440, even more on a zr 600. Finding one of these for 7k is pretty easy, port, pipe, clutch, now your over 100 horse. sounds like a perfect sled to me. Taxes are right around the corner and a big bore d&d 720, in that 500……..WOW Im in

  30. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Great work!

  31. this review is 100% honest,sure the sled may not have much hp or go that fast, but honestly i have the sno pro 500 and i wouldnt want any other sled, i have friends with 800’s and 600’s and in the tight trails and usualy wide trails i leave them in the dust, handles amazing, nothing i dont like about this sled, id reccomend it to anyone

  32. Cracked windshields were colanopmmce when I lived in Alaska a dozen years ago. People don’t worry about it much up there. Lots and lots of roads are not paved. And the winter plays havoc on the ones that are paved, which means much road construction in the summer months. I’ve driven that road many times. Sure do miss it.

  33. Amazing all the movement and steps taken to get ready for a sled run. Are the dogs thteered to an eye bolt attached to the truck body? Don’t see those extention bars attached to the truck bumpers with a drop chain line. Was your camera on a tripod? Dave in NC [url=]ubjralgcvn[/url] [link=]ypzdxfb[/link]

  34. At checkpoints: Mushers tilpcayly use only one hook. BUT, there’s aways someone — a volunteer, checker, etc. — there to stand on the brake. A musher would not — under any circumstances — walk away from the back of a sled and trust one snow hook. They will walk in front, but that’s because they could grab the sled as it goes by. So, there’s no real difference to the dogs. [url=]eirqzthurj[/url] [link=]cprkmr[/link]


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