Side-By-Side Snowmobile: 1978 Ski-Doo Elite

This 1978 Ski-Doo Elite is so far above anything that we had when I was a kid growing up in snow country. We had old, used, usually somewhat beat-up small snowmobiles that we ended up repainting and trying to make look halfway decent and always tried to keep running halfway decently, sometimes without luck. This elite Elite can be found here on eBay in Dayton Ohio and the current bid price is $3,450.

A two-seater snowmobile isn’t unusual but having those two people sitting side-by-side in a twin-track snowmobile is unusual. A rear-engine snowmobile isn’t that unusual, or it wasn’t decades ago, but having a luxury snowmobile that was fairly close to driving a small car on a snow-covered trail is unusual. The Elite was made starting in 1973 and they were originally white. They weren’t really big sellers and they went away by 1976 but they came back again for 1978. This is my favorite year for this model.

This 790-pound sled isn’t something that you’re going to heave out of a snowbank if you get stuck, but they were really made for groomed trails and were marketed towards well-heeled clients. Bombardier, the maker of Ski-Doo snowmobiles, was headquartered in Valcourt, Quebec, Canada and the designers and engineers would literally open the doors of the factory and head down what were known as Quebec’s snow freeways to test them. Cool.

The Elite was almost like a little sports car in its day. Not as far as speed and handling went but in side-by-side seating configuration and there’s even a shifter between the seats like a pony car would have had. It’s actually how you shift between forward and reverse but it looks cool, no? We never had a snowmobile with gauges of any kind, or electric start or heated grips or anything fancy like this Elite had. An AM/FM radio and even a CB radio would have been options. I don’t know where we would have ridden it anyway. Growing up in the country, we just had narrow trails in the woods that we created ourselves and the Elite probably wouldn’t have done too well on those.

When the Elite came back to production in 1978, they came with a more modern powerplant, being a water-cooled 444 twin. The antiquated bogie suspension was now gone in favor of a modern slide system. Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t even know if this engine even runs or not, but it sounds like the electrical items work and I’m guessing that after cleaning the fuel system out that it’ll run again. Have any of you owned an Elite?

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Comments

  1. KSwheatfarmer

    First one I’ve ever seen. Had two Evenrudes back in the late 70’s.

    Like 6
  2. Boatman Member

    Scotty! Is it a ’74 or a ’78?

    Like 1
    • CCFisher

      Looks like a coolant tank on the right side of the engine compartment. That would make this one of the later models.

      Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, Boatman!

      Like 1
  3. Brian Scott

    I cut my teeth at age 10 on an old Ski-Doo (Olympique). Man, ride it a day, fix it for two. But somehow it never left me stranded. Crazy in 2019 to think of a 10 year-old, 40 miles from home in the sub-zero temps., goofing around. By contrast, I’ve got a 2006 Artic Cat Crossfire that’s been underwater, courtesy of a flooded peat bog, and has been ridden like a rented mule, never giving me even the slightest hiccup. Nothing. Sleds have advanced tremendously since the ’70s.

    Like 8
    • Chris Man

      Had a 1970 skidoo Olympic 335e single cylinder…electric start…you could not kill it…20:1 2 stroke

      Like 2
  4. Howard A Member

    Now, who could have possibly submitted this? Scotty knows, I have a thing about snowmobiles. Growing up in Wisconsin, they were a big part of our lives, and still are. I’ve had many, and seen dozens more, with friends, I can say, I’ve never seen one of these, especially on the trails. The trails are just too narrow for something like this, and was more of a work horse, like Scotty mentioned. This was in the infancy of liquid cooled machines, and they were troublesome. I had a Yamaha SRX, 1st liquid cooled Yam, junk, fast,when it ran, but junk. Same with SkiDoo. I knew guys that these motors in regular sleds, and always burning holes in pistons. Maybe for slow running, they are ok, but couldn’t take wide open applications for long. L/C has come a long way, that’s why, if choosing a vintage sled, go with fan cooled. Also ride. We’ve come a long ways in suspension too. These cowboys with their 4 cylinder, 120 hp. blitz machines, turn the trails into washboards, and something like this will have you hating the world in no time. SkiDoo also made a twin track machine for working called the Alpine, with one ski in front. I think they made them into the 80’s. Before groomers, these pulled many a drag, and was always a welcome site.

    Like 2
    • 408 interceptor

      I’ll second that Howard, it only takes speed freaks on modern high horsepower sleds half a day to ruin a nice trail.

      Like 2
    • On and On On and On Member

      Back in the late 70s my cousins and their parents had a restaurant near Winter, Wisconsin and made their own trail to their place on a Ski-doo Alpine. It was my introduction to sledding, which continues to this day. They had the Alpine and 2 Scorpion Stingers. What fun! My cousin rode the Alpine out front and made trails with it, slowly but steadily. We followed on the Scorpions. Burned gallons everyday and loved every minute. I was hooked. I’ve owned a dozen sleds since then. Still have one, a Yamaha V-Max 600. Howard you are correct about the fan cooled sleds, not as fast or powerful but dependable and simpler mechanicals without liquid cooling. Had lots of them even a couple free-air machines that were great way up north in -20. The colder it was the better they ran. When it got hot (30degrees) they didn’t like it. I’ve got a place up in Hayward, Wi. and they got 20 inches of snow the last couple weeks. Heading up there tomorrow. Can’t wait. Good times. I’ve seen a couple of these 2 seater sleds over the years, Good for open flat areas but not for trails with ruts from standard sleds. I guarantee your arms will feel like cooked macaroni after a day on one of these guys. You earn your beer and prime rib at the last stop.

      Like 5
      • Howard A Member

        Hey Gregg, we always said the machines seemed to go faster after the bars closed. In the late 70’s, did a LOT of riding in Price Co. the heyday of snowmobiles. I had a ’77 Yamaha 340 Exciter that was my regular sled for years. Put a LOT of miles on that sled, it never failed, and back in the N.Woods when it’s zero, that’s a long, cold walk home. Back from a time, when a group of friends had a couple hundred dollar sled, gas was cheap, and every tavern had a gas tank, try that today, many of those mom and pop taverns are gone and gas, or lack of it, is a real concern. You just can’t have that kind of fun today.

        Like 4
      • On and On On and On Member

        Yeah Howard, sledding has come a long way. I still miss the simpler less crowded times. Had the trails and lakeshores to yourself, no yahoo coming at you at 60 on a narrow trail. Folks were courteous and we all looked out for each other. I towed many a sled back to resorts. And got towed myself a couple times.

        Like 1
    • David Ulrey

      Same here Howard A. I lived in Northern Wisconsin all through my teen years, Crandon to be exact. I’ve owned a few snowmobiles and was an avid rider and definitely loved it! Never saw or even heard of these babies back then. I even got monthly snowmobile magazines too. Strange how so many years later that this is new news to me that such a thing even existed. I had a new Scorpion ( my brother was a dealer) a Polaris Colt, a Ski Doo, cannot remember the model name but it had a 440 and that baby would fly! Here’s one most wouldn’t remember – also had a Mallard. Picked up for next to nothing, ugly as homemade sin and not fast but that blasted thing was like a mule. Kept going and going and going. Just not at a fast pace. Lol

      Like 4
      • Howard A Member

        Hey, David, in the 80’s ( same Yam 340) I did a lot of riding near Crivitz, with a bunch of my trucking buddies. Everybody upgraded to newer sleds, I still ran “old Faithful”. That’s when I had that SRX too, was fast, handled poorly, puked a couple water pumps and went back to the Exciter. I think the SkiDoo you mention may be the “Blizzards”. They were fast machines.

        Like 1
      • On and On On and On Member

        Hey David, I’ve been around Crandon, my buddy has a place on Munger lake. Beautiful area. Never heard of a Mallard, interesting. There were literally a hundred manufacturers back when.

        Like 1
  5. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    I want this so badly! It would be perfect to take on the trails in the Bighorn mountains near my hometown in Wyoming. Wish it were closer!

    Like 3
  6. Coventrycat

    I love the burl wood stickers on the sides. You’d think they would have put some on the dashboard, too. Pretty cool ride.

    Like 1
  7. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    I used to ride sled up around Ashland, Maine and it was a sport I really enjoyed for a few years. My first sled was a ’74 Arctic Cat El Tigre 440, a free air sled that ran better when the temp was very cold. Then I went to a ’81 Polaris Centurion, a water-cooled 500cc triple. Very fast for the day but not a good sled off the improved trails, too heavy to break trail, it was at it’s best on the hard pack. Loved that sled, great on the ice after I added 3/4″ carbide ice picks; you could keep the skis up for a long ways out of the hole. My favorite ride was heading out late at night under a full moon, it was so bright you almost didn’t need running lights. Absolutely beautiful, a wonderful experience.

    Never saw a Ski-Doo Elite, an interesting setup that would be perfect for a ride with your significant other. Too heavy for off-trail for sure, best suited for the dragged trails. Pretty high bid so far for a non-runner. I can’t imagine parts are too easy to find, either.

    Like 1
  8. Jay E

    Back in the day I sold them. The write up was pretty much spot on. Down the logging roads that function as driveways in the winter, they were a lot more useful for binging your groceries in or shuttling the kids did to school. Not fast, underpowered, they wouldn’t venture far off intp deep snpw, usually reverse would get you out of wha you could drive into. They were very expensive. I think you caould get a soft top to enclose it too. This is a resonable price for a usefull machine. It woud be great for ice fishiing or a day at the lake. The 440 rotax was pretty reliable given its low horsepower. Im surprised it has not sold.

    Like 2

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