The history of the modern day recreational snowmobile is fairly recent, however, travel over snow goes back many years, although man actually flew before he could master snow travel.
While the Wright Brothers flew in 1903, the very first vehicle that was built to go in snow wasn’t created until 1908.
That was the Lombard log hauler designed and built in Waterville, Maine. It was a large cumbersome machine that resembled a steam locomotive, only it had a half track design and front skis.
In 1909, a man named O.C. Johnson built an over the snow machine that went on top of the snow, when it worked. It was roughly ten feet long, used a track design, “one lunger engine”, and was capable of rudimentary steering.
In 1913, Virgil White, a Ford dealer in New Hampshire, invented a track and ski unit conversion for the Model T Ford.
Early in the winter of 1922, fifteen year old J. Armand Bombardier designed a wind driven sleigh with a Model T engine. This was to be the first of many snowmobiles designed by Bombardier.
One of the most amazing snowmobiles was built in 1924 in Sayner, Wisconsin. It was the invention of Earl Eliason, who called it his motor toboggan.
It was a wooden toboggan fitted with two skis, which were steered with ropes, powered by a 2.5 horsepower Johnson outboard motor, and was pushed by an endless steel cleated track.
It was a front mounted, liquid cooled engine that used a jack shaft. All these are qualities that are credited to modern day snowmobiles.
Mr Eliason patented and manufactured his machine until 1939 when he sold out to FWD Corporation in Canada, who continued to built them until 1960.
It wasn’t until 1954 that the modern day recreational snowmobile was born. David Johnson was a partner with Alan and Edgar Hetteen of Polaris Industries.
Mr. Johnson made his design of a snowmobile during a weekend adventure, unknown to the other two partners. This became the very first Polaris, which has remained a leading name in snowmobile design until the present day.