Snowmobiles are also called snow machines or sleds in different places. They are vehicles built for traveling across snow. They are used for utility as well as recreation, with many of them serving double duty. They work on snow and ice. They also don’t require trails or roads, but they are usually operated across trails and open fields. Riding across them elsewhere is typically called Back country snowmobiling. Typically, they fit two people, but some of the more specialized varieties only fit one person.
Snowmobiles were never invented in the traditional sense. They were created from advancing technology. Inventors would create new devices out of existing components until the modern snow machine developed.
In the 19th century, Wisconsin began experimenting with different over-snow devices. They attempted to add fins and runners to bicycles. They experimented with sleighs powered by steam engines and Ford Model Ts outfitted with tractor treads and skis.
If the modern snow machine has an inventor, it was Carl Eliason. He attached a motorcycle engine to a sled. The device was steered with the front skis, and the motor propelled a track. He produced 40 of these devices. He then sold the patent and the devices entered mass production.
Snowmobiling in Colorado was sometimes possible with the heavy machines made from Model Ts, but the humid snow in other areas would not support the weight. So, lighter machines had to be built. The first practical machines were built in 1955. They were developed by the company that would become Polaris. They were heavy and slow. Certain models weighed around 1,000lbs and only traveled 20mph.
In 1960, new models of engines were light and small enough that Joseph-Armand Bombardier was able to create what you think of as a snowmobile. He sold it as a “Ski-Doo.” By the 1970s, there were over one hundred manufacturers of machines.
Originally, they were designed to Travel across snow for mostly utilitarian purposes. Snowmobiling was heavy, expensive, and slow. Their most common use was hauling materials across snow, but they were more of a curiosity. They are still used in much the same manner by many people.
However, as they became lighter and faster, companies began to think of the product as a possible recreational vehicle also.
Many of the manufacturers that emerged after Bombardier changed the landscape are still in existence. They produce machines which are much lighter and more useful than their predecessors are.
Many private individuals, as well as organizations, also use different machines to haul goods and materials. Some of these machines have two tracks for added power and stability. Many are much larger than the one or two person models that are used for recreation. Whatever they are being used for, they have come a long way from cars with skis attached.