7 mighty machines of wintery mayhem

Winter is a time to curl up around a fire with some hot cocoa, right? For the more adventurous types, it can also be the best time of the year to get outside and blast through the thick white stuff. These massive machines are designed for winter mayhem. — John Brandon

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    2014 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre, $10,799

    Arctic Cat is a leader in chassis design, and the ZR 6000 El Tigre is one of their best options from their line. The ride is firm and yet responsive, conforming nicely to the big snow bank you are about to plow through. The 2-stroke engine uses something called slotted piston ejection to help burn fuel cleaner. Oh, and when you need to stop suddenly for a snow drift, the hydraulic brakes (similar to what you will find in a car) kick in for smooth stopping power.
    Arctic Cat
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    Polaris Indy 550 Adventure 144, $8,399

    This touring sled is designed for winter mayhem -- with a passenger. They sit behind you in an elevated position with their own handlebar grips. Called the Lock & Ride Convertible Passenger Seat, the handles move with the suspension. There’s even a cargo rack at the rear of the snowmobile, and an option to add saddlebags on the sides. One bonus: Polaris engineered the suspension to be stiffer and more secure for this model, without the bump of older models.
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    2014 Audi Q5 TDI, price varies on options

    This stylish European SUV could be a life-saver in winter. We’ve tested the Quattro traction control system, which automatically sends extra power to a slipping tire. Many automakers claim to have this feature, but on the Q5, it actually works in the deep stuff. It’s like having an AI system that knows how to keep the car going straight without fish-tailing on ice.
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    Honda HS1336 Snow Blower, $7,999

    This monster can move snow at an earth-shattering rate of 83-tons per hour. It has a 36.2-inch clearing path and provides a throttle for adjusting the chute. The HS1336 is a hybrid: the engine powers the main auger and impeller but two electric motors power the drive system. The whole unit, which sits on snow tracks instead of wheels, tilts up and down for the perfect angle.
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    Snow Joe iON, $400

    Not quite as massive or snow-hungry as the Honda HS1336 Snow Blower, the Snow Joe iON has a distinct advantage: it is an all-electric model. Charge time is only about 3 hours for 40 minutes of operation. The 40-Volt battery drives a 2-blade auger for about an 18" wide path in snow that’s up to 8-inches deep. It’s one of the biggest all-electric single-stage models you will find that can still pile through the thick stuff in the dead of winter.
    Snow Joe
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    Pure Polaris Prospector Pro Track Mount, $449 each plus mounts

    For $449, these track amounts for a Polaris UTV turns your rig into an all-season machine. They are easier to install than you think, and the secret to the good grip on snow is how they are made. The rubber grips are spaced evenly for the best traction. Polaris also makes metal studs you can screw into the rubber grips on the tracks for even more control on ice.
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    2014 RAM 1500, price varies on options

    For the best kind of winter fun, nothing beats a massive 4WD truck like the RAM 1500, which took home truck-of-the-year honors for 2013 from Motor Trend Magazine. All of the typical truck features are here to help you get out of a jam, including a 4LO mode that actually works in snow (we’ve tested it). The main reason to pick the RAM 1500: the V6 diesel version of the truck has an incredible 420 pound-feet of torque yet will get about 25MPG on the highway.
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