Like the tread of a tire, the runners of your skis are the contact patch that keeps your snowmobile pointed in the right direction. Finding the best combination of runner and carbide for your sled and riding style can improve handling, and make an already great ride an all-time ride.
Assuming you’re otherwise happy with your sled’s suspension, and traction from the rear of the sled, here are a few things to think about for under your skis:
Most people think the carbide inserts of a runner are what steer a sled, and while they do have influence – especially in hard pack snow conditions – your runners (sometimes called wear bars or skegs) and their shape and size have a big impact on your sled’s handling.
The general rule of thought in runner selection is the larger the runner, the more aggressively the snowmobile will handle. There is more surface area for the runner to bite into the snow as you maneuver the sled.
The shape of the runner plays a role in how aggressively a snowmobile handles as well. Ski-Doo trail sleds will come with either a round or square shape (other ‘hybrid’ runner shapes are available from aftermarket companies as well). Square is typically seen as the more aggressive of the two shapes, but both the size and shape come with a caveat. The more surface area a runner has, the more steering effort is usually required by the rider to turn the sled. So, a deeper, square runner design is going to require more from the rider to turn than a shorter, round runner. Finding the right combination of shape and size is essential.
Your sled (any brand) comes from the dealer with a fresh pair of runners, typically equipped with 3-4 inches of sharp carbide. Ski-Doo trail sleds come with different runners depending on their intended audience. They vary in size and some in shape depending on what model snowmobile you purchase.
It’s probably no surprise that Ski-Doo X-RS snowmobiles come with the deepest stock runner of any of our sleds at 7/16 of an inch. However, the X-RS runners are round in shape, which seems counterintuitive to the info above. Considering the added size, using the round shape reduces steering effort for the rider over a square runner of the same size while keeping an aggressive feel.
Other Ski-Doo MXZ and Renegade models come with a square shape runner at a smaller 3/8 inch. This combination of smaller size keeps steering effort low, while the square shape adds enough surface area to allow for an aggressive ride some might be looking for.
You’ll notice the there’s only a 1/16 of an inch difference between runner sizes, but that small difference goes a long way in determining the steering feel of your snowmobile.
Knowing conditions are never the same, and even your preferred riding style can change by the day, Ski-Doo is the only manufacturer to offer riders an adjustable runner ski. The Pilot TS (tunable ski) comes standard on the MXZ Blizzard, Renegade Enduro, and Grand Touring SE, and is also available as a Spring Buy option on the MXZ and Renegade X-RS and X models. This unique ski gives riders the ability to increase or decrease the amount of runner as conditions change throughout the day.
Softer conditions, or a rider who wants a more aggressive ski bite in the corners can elect to use a larger amount of runner for more surface area. More hardpack conditions crisp mornings may require less runner for a more comfortable ride. Similarly, a more relaxed pace may not require as much runner for that ideal ride.
We said small adjustments can make a big difference, which is why the Pilot TS ski offers 20 positions of adjustment over a half-inch span, letting any rider find that perfect riding experience in almost any snow conditions.
Most ski runners will come with a sharp carbide blade. This blade can come in multiple lengths from a couple inches all the way up to 14 inches, depending on the application. Like the runner itself, the size of the carbide on the runner changes the surface area in contact with the snow. A longer carbide (more surface area) will give a more aggressive, positive steering feel than a shorter carbide.
The common misconception by many riders is that a longer amount of carbide will improve their sled’s handling. The truth is, size and shape of the runner have just as much – if not more – to do with your sled’s handling.