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I'm new here and haven't had a sled for a few years now. My last sleds were a 1990 Polaris 650 SKS and a 1992 Arctic Cat Panther.
I'm looking to get back into this, but my riding will be a bit different than most. I will be mostly using my sled to get out to remote parts of lakes, primarily Strawberry Reservoir (for you Utah people) then parking it for a while for some ice fishing.
I need to make sure I have something dependable enough to park out there for a while and be able to start it right up when it's time to go home.
A few needs:
- Dependability is the absolute must. I know that, by nature, these aren't the most dependable machines out there, but are some brands better than others? I keep hearing of crank problems on many of the Polaris machines, and seen other posts that strongly say to stay away from the SkiDoos.
- Need something with enough track to get me out of slushy situations on the lake. That lake can build up some nasty slush.
- Don't need the highest performance machine as those seem to tend to need more mechanical work in the short term. I won't be riding as hard as most of you. However, it would be nice to take a passenger (not necessarily a 2-up machine, though) and tow a bit of gear.
- A little power is nice. Would be nice to take off now and then when the fishing is slow. I ride an 1800cc bike during the summer (Suzuki M109r) so I'm used to a ton of torque pushing me along.
- I don't have a ton of money. I will probably be spending up to about $2k for the sled, and possibly a second lower end sled for someone to go with me. If something happens with the 2nd sled the primary will need to be able to pull it out.
Thoughts? Any brands / models I should look for? Things I should look for on machines as I go to look at them?
 

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I'm fairly new to Utah as well. My last sleds were all short(er) track models, with 3/4" paddles.

As far as what you're needing, ANY newer sled that the big-4 make are as reliable as any other. If you can find a 2-stroke engine, they are insanely simple motors, and very easy to work on. Carbs are simpler to work on than fuel injection.

A good emergency kit will go a long way towards keeping you safe. A folding saw, rope, fire starter, LED flashlight with lithium batteries, survival blanket, etc. should all be in your kit. From experience, I would also keep a few common bolts (i.e. skid mount) on hand, as well as a few GOOD combination wrenches. A supply of various sizes of tie-wraps and some electrical tape is also handy to have.

Make sure you have an alternate way to start your sled, in case your pull starter rope breaks. Make sure you can actually start your sled with the alternative starting device (rope, strap, whatever). Many sleds include one in the built-in tool kit, but if you don't know how to use it, or it doesn't work, you'll not be very happy if you need it.

Any modern sled with a 500 or more cc engine will work fine for getting in and out and towing another if need be. I would look for a 136" track, with around 1.5" lugs. If you're riding mostly on ice, I would look for a fan-cooled engine. Again; simple is better when you're far from help, and fans are simpler than liquid cooled engines. Liquids need snow being tossed on the heat exchanger to keep them cool. Unless you install ice scratchers, you'll overheat it.

Things to look for are working hand warmers :)
Okay, a generally well taken care of sled will show it. If the engine compartment if full of leaves and rust, the rest of the sled was probably neglected as well. Look for ones kept in a trailer or garage. People who care about their sleds usually treat them well, and they tend to be more reliable - as opposed to someone who posts pictures of them flying through the air on it... Those I would definitely avoid! 2-up sleds are generally not beat on, so don't rule them out.
 

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newer yamaha's are probably the most reliable (if you have the funds)
if your ice fishing ,(especially on strawberry) you shouldn't need much as far as long track , a 600 cc is a good powerplant from just about any of the big four is very reliable,
and powerful enough for ice fishing (and more for that matter ) the bigger (800's) two strokes are the ones that i have heard of with issues . as for which brand, you ask
which is better , chevy ford, dodge, toyota? your going to get a different answer from
almost ever person with that question , same holds true for sleds :)
 
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