John Lambert sits on his 2-stroke snowmobile at his home in Parsonsfield. Beside him is one of the three 4-stroke sleds that he and his wife use to ride on trails. There’s been a rise in sales of the newer 4-stroke snowmobiles, but many Mainers still prefer the 2-stroke sleds. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

SACO — As a handful of members of the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club waited for their monthly meeting to start at the clubhouse, a friendly debate over their sled of choice erupted and grew loud, even as it rang with laughter. 

“They’re two different animals,” James Stubinski insisted – referring to 2-stroke and 4-stroke sleds. “I got a 4-stroke for the first time in 2020. I only kept it for a year, then I went back. It rode awesome. It made me smile. But it didn’t make me grin wicked like a 2-stroke. It’s a totally different feeling when you’re on a 2-stroke.”

One thing became clear as four men sparred on the difference between 4-stroke and 2-stroke snowmobiles: many die-hard Maine riders remain 2-stroke fans. 

Four-stroke snowmobiles have been on the market for 20 years, but they’ve started to become more common in Maine only in the past few years, according to snowmobile dealers in the state. Many dealers agree: old-school 2-stroke sleds are here to stay, even as the industry seems poised to introduce the next generation of sleds in electric machines. Lynx, a European company affiliated with Ski-Doo, is already producing an electric snowmobile in Scandinavia.

The main difference between the gas-driven 2- and 4-stroke sleds is in how the engine works. A 4-stroke engine goes through four strokes of the piston to complete the combustion cycle, while a 2-stroke engine goes through only two strokes of the piston to complete the combustion cycle. The result is that 4-stroke engine is more fuel efficient and produces lower emissions, but it is heavier. The 2-stroke engine weighs less and is easier to maintain, having fewer moving parts.

The difference in weight between the two can be as much as 150 pounds, depending on the model. Generally 2-strokes weigh around 450 and 4-strokes are upward of 500 pounds.


The price difference also depends on the model. The 2-stroke sleds generally cost less than $10,000, while the higher-end sleds, which include many 4-stroke models, cost $12,000 to $15,000 and can run as much as $20,000.

There are other key differences: a 4-stroke sled requires oil to be added to the engine only once a year, while a 2-stroke engine requires oil be added several times a season; 4-stroke engines can last up to 30,000 to 40,000 miles, while 2-strokes have a shorter life span, around 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Finally, two-stroke engines are famously noisy, smoky and smell.

Still, many Maine riders adore them.

“A lot of old-school snowmobilers grew up on 2-strokes and prefer them. They are snappier, even on trails. They’re easier to handle,” said Jason Dunn, the trail master with the Turner Ridge Riders.

John Lambert demonstrates how light his 2-stroke sled is as he rides it around his home in Parsonsfield. He’d have a tough time trying to tip his 4-stroke, which he said weighs a few hundred pounds more. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

Manufacturers don’t release data on the number of 2-stroke and 4-stroke sleds sold nationwide, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. Here in Maine, snowmobile sales at Mountainside Powersports in Wilton were split evenly between 2-stroke and 4-stroke sleds just a few years ago, said owner Dan Daigle. Now about 70% of his sales are 4-strokes, he said.

“It’s shifting fairly quickly to 4-strokes. A lot of it has to do with the price of crude oil,” Daigle said. “If you ride 1,000 miles a season, that’s 10 quarts of oil you need to add.”


Even Daigle, a self-proclaimed “2-stroke die-hard kind of guy” who grew up riding in Aroostook County, bought a 4-stroke sled for the first time last year.

“I thought the torque of a 2-stroke was very good. Then I got on a 4-stroke and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really, really good.’ It wasn’t too heavy. It didn’t feel heavy at all,” he said. 

Michael Tevanian, owner of West-Port Motorsports in Westbrook, sells more 2-stroke machines, but he said 4-strokes sales are increasing. 

“I think it’s a 75-25 split, 2-stroke versus 4-stroke because people are still looking to experience what the 2-stroke offers,” Tevanian said. “A 2-stroke, even on the trail, has a different level of performance. They’re lighter, more lively, more responsive. It’s light handling, the cornering is better. A 4-stroke can still be snappy but they weigh more.

“I think 2-stroke development will keep getting better, more reliable, they’ll use less fuel, smoke less. Every year they keep getting better.”

However, more manufacturers are making 4-stroke models compared to 10 years ago.


“Polaris only just started making 4-strokes,” Tevanian pointed out.

Wayne Keniston at Keniston’s Motorsports in Falmouth sells only used sleds. He said the used market for 4-strokes, which can last 30,000 to 40,000 miles, is strong.

And in the heart of Maine’s snowmobile country in Greenville, Jennie Gray at Moosehead Motorsports agreed 4-strokes are gaining momentum. She believes the longevity of the 4-stroke engines has a lot to do with that.

Despite that, the loyalty to 2-stroke sleds among Maine riders is undeniably strong.

John Lambert of Parsonsfield owns three 4-stroke sleds that are used by his wife and grandchildren. But he hangs on to his 2-stroke sled to help him groom trails. Most of the riders in the Sacopee Valley Snow Drifters have 2-stroke sleds, Lambert said.

“The 2-stroke are for the crew who want to get off the groomed trail. The 4-stroke are for people who want a nice family ride,” said Lambert, the club’s assistant trail master.


Lambert calls his 2-stroke his “backcountry sled” because it lets him go out after a storm and pack the trail for the grooming to come later. But if he’s trailering sleds in his covered snowmobile trailer and one is a 2-stroke – watch out when he starts it up, Lambert said.

“In my trailer (with) my Yamaha 4-stroke and my 2-stroke Ski-Doo, when I start (the 2-stroke) I’ve got to get it out fast (because of the heavy exhaust),” Lambert said. “With the 4-stroke, there’s no smoke. It’s not burning oil. It’s like starting a car.”

John Lambert, like many Mainers, often prefers riding his 2-stroke sled over his 4-stroke snowmobile. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

While 2-stroke and 4-stroke machines may not look vastly different to someone who doesn’t know snowmobiles, Dunn in Turner said the sound of a machine on a trail is a sure giveaway. 

“A 2-stroke sounds like a dirt bike, with a revving sound. A 4-stroke has more of a purr,” Dunn said. 

The higher price for 4-stroke sleds means many Maine riders who mostly ride locally will opt for the cheaper 2-stroke machines, Dunn added.

“A lot of people who travel up north to Rangeley, Moosehead, Aroostook County, those people tend to spend more on machines. They have more money for the sport. If you’re buying an inexpensive machine, you’re going to use a 2-stroke,” he said.

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