Old Sled Sighting: 1970’s Ski-Doo Elite “The Pony Car” of Sleds

Ski-Doo originally introduced the two-seater Elite model way back in 1973.

Restored Ski-Doo Elite snowmobile.
Restored Ski-Doo Elite snowmobile. Photo courtesy Doug Williamson

Here's another vintage sled on display at the recent Cranbrook Snowmobile Club's Show and Shine. This photo, courtesy of Doug Williamson, shows a restored Ski-Doo machine ready to cruise the trails in style.

Though it must be said that some snowmobilers have been known to call the early Ski-Doo Elites, “a bathtub on skis complete with leather bucket seats,” this rather harsh evaluation misses the point of these classic side-by-side “people movers.” They just had more creature comforts build into every mile ridden.

Ski-Doo originally introduced the two-seater Elite model way back in 1973. The marketing vision was that the Elite would, in fact, appeal to the “elite,” or a more well-heeled, upscale snow riding clientele.

The heavy sled was designed to give a smooth ride while offering “nimble” handling despite its clumsy twin tracks and wide twin ski stance. This Elite model sported a rear-mounted 635cc fan-cooled twin engine.

It came with side-by-side seating that mimicked the “pony” cars of the day complete with 4-speed console mounted shift transmission lever located between the seats.

By the 1975 model the Elite's engine had been scaled back to a 436cc Rotax twin but the amenities upgraded to include a speedometer, tach, electric fuel gauge and, to appeal to the more urbane of the day, a cigarette lighter.

However, in 1976 the Elite was discontinued and wasn't revived again until several years later. This time the 1978 Elite came with a 444 liquid-cooled twin engine—gone were the bogie wheeled suspensions, now replaced by Ski-Doo's new Torque Reaction slide suspension system, promising to give the sled a smoother ride and better handling. Upgrades available included a CB radio (10-4 good buddy), a ski rack and AM/FM radio.

As I have written before, “The Elite hung around until 1983 when it was once again axed from the Ski-Doo production run. The Elite remained mothballed until its resurrection in 2005. This time a more sporty model was introduced with a Rotax 4-stroke 1/5-litre liquid-cooled engine, a airplane cockpit inspired “steering wheel” complete with heated grips, lockable front trunk and twin SC-3 rear slide suspension. But again Ski-Doo seemed to be playing to the snowmobiler who was seeking more “creature comforts” than sporty performance and side-by-side riding excitement. It still came across as your “father's Oldsmobile” – more “snow car” than “performance sled.”

Great to see a vintage Ski-Doo Elite plying the trails during this recent vintage event. Got a vintage snowmobile story or photos to share? Contact [email protected]

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