When Was the Snowmobile Invented? A History Lesson

September 4th, 2019 by

When Was the Snowmobile Invented? A History Lesson

At this point, the snowmobile is a given. We’re all used to seeing it and have no reason to ponder its existence.

However, it wasn’t always this way. There was a time at which the snowmobile was a new idea, one which stoked the intrigue of many a human being.

Wondering how it got to where it is today? Find yourself questioning, “when was the snowmobile invented?” Then you’re in the right place.

We’re going to discuss the history of the snowmobile.


Precursors to the Snowmobile

While the recreational snowmobile as we know it today wasn’t invented until 1927, there were plenty of precursors to it. These machines were typically invented to serve practical purposes, improving operational efficiency in a number of industries.

The first one that came along was the Lombard log hauler, a train-like vehicle which was equipped with skis on instead of front wheels. Invented in Waterville, Maine in 1908, it vastly improved transportation throughout the lumber industry.

Another snowmobile-like vehicle was invented in 1909 by O.C. Johnson. A long, narrow vehicle, it could actually glide on top of the snow. Unfortunately, it possessed less-than-perfect steering capabilities.

Some inventors even experimented with Model T Fords, equipping them with skis in the hopes that they could better traverse snowy roads. J. Armand Bombardier used a Model T engine to power has wind-driven snow vehicle, a move that would spur on many such creations in the future.


When Was the Snowmobile Invented?

Though there were plenty of snow-centric vehicles created by the beginning of the 1920s, the first vehicle which could rightfully be called a snowmobile was invented in 1922. A creation of J. Armand Bombardier, this vehicle possessed the ability to glide over snow.

This would spur on further innovation in snowmobile technology, eventually resulting in the patent of Carl Eliason’s one-person, single-track, engine-powered snow toboggan. This vehicle was patented in 1927.

Possessing excellent handle and superb power, Eliason’s vehicle was an example of what snow-based vehicles could become. It would spur on an avalanche of innovation both in the near and distant future.


The 1930s

Eliason manufactured snowmobiles throughout the 1930s, selling them successfully by himself until 1939. It was in 1939 that he sold his company to F.W.D. Corporation, a company in Canada which would produce and sell his brand of snowmobiles until 1960.

The aforementioned J. Armand Bombardier also saw success with snowmobiles in the 30s, patenting his particular type of snowmobile in 1937.


The 1940s

In the 1940s, J. Armand Bombardier opened his snowmobile manufacturing company, the aptly named Bombardier. It would go on to massive success, acting as one of the leader’s in snowmobile innovation throughout the 20th century.

Bombardier is now the workplace of approximately 10,500 employees and continues to be on the cutting edge of snowmobile innovation.


The 1950s

The 1950s saw the creation of the first Canadian single-track snowmobile. Designed by Allister and George Ingham, it would spur on the establishment of Saskatchewan’s Ingham Motor Toboggan, a company which would last from 1950 to 1963.

The snowmobile manufacturer Polaris also saw its conception in the 1950s. Changing its name from Heteen Hoist & Derrick in 1954, it manufactured its first snowmobile in 1956. By 1957, Polaris was producing the Autoboggan, a heavy-duty snowmobile with extreme size and power.

In 1959, Bombardier released the Ski-Doo, one of the most iconic snowmobiles in history.


The 1960s

The 1960s saw the arrival of the Trail-A-Sled, the first rubber-tracked snowmobile in America. This saw its invention in 1963, specifically.

Arctic Cat and Yamaha also threw their hats into the snowmobile ring during the 1960s. Arctic Cat even added some innovation to the mix, producing a slide rail suspension system in 1966.

Yamaha’s first contribution came in 1968 with the SL350, the first snowmobile with slide valve carburetors.


The 1970s

The 1970s saw quite a bit of snowmobile innovation as well. In 1972, Arctic Cat released the first kids’ snowmobile, the Kitty Cat.

In the same year, Brutanza released the first liquid-cooled engine on a snowmobile. A year later, in 1973, Brutanza would introduce the heat exchanger to the world of snowmobiles. Both innovations would go on to have a seismic impact throughout the 1970s and beyond.


The 1980s

Yamaha did everything it could to push forward the performance of snowmobiles throughout the 1980s. In 1984, the company released its Phazer model, a snowmobile which was well-equipped to handle mountainous terrain. In 1988, the company released its first kids’ snowmobile, the Sno Scoot.

The 1990s

The 1990s produced even more snowmobile innovation. This would start in 1991 with the Polaris Indy 650 RXL EFI, the first manufactured snowmobile to feature fuel injection.

There were also big leaps in the use of electricity in snowmobiles. In 1997, Arctic Cat created the first battery-free electronic fuel injection system. In 1998, the Ski-Doo was the first snowmobile to possess an electronic reverse feature.


The 2000s

The 2000s brought environmentally-friendly snowmobiles. This began when Arctic Cat produced four-stroke snow vehicles for use at Yellowstone National Park. Four-stroke engines grew in popularity in the 2000s and were best exemplified in the Yamaha RX-1 in 2003.

You could also argue that the first snow bike was manufactured in the 2000s, as the 2001 Snow Hawk strikes an uncanny resemblance to a motorcycle.


The 2010s

While the 2000s might have brought the first glimpse of the snow bike, the 2010s popularized the snow bike. A variety of manufacturers put snow bikes out on the market, including but not limited to Timbersled, Yeti, and Arctic Cat.

These days, the market contains a good mix of both snow bikes and conventional snowmobiles. These vehicles possess state-of-the-art technology, providing greater power and handle than snowmobiles have ever provided before.


Looking to Buy a Snowmobile?

And there it is, the answer to the question of “when was the snowmobile invented?” As you can see, the snowmobile has evolved wildly over the years.

Now that you’ve learned a bit about snowmobile history, you might be interested in buying a snowmobile yourself. If so, and if you’re looking for a snowmobile in Manitoba, Canada, Westshore Marine & Leisure is the company to call.

Browse our selection of snowmobiles now!

Posted in Snowmobile