History of Snowmobiling
in Minnesota

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The history of snowmobiling is firmly rooted in Minnesota and snowmobiling Minnesota trails is a favorite winter outdoor activity for many.

History of Snowmobiling

There are disputes over the origins of the snowmobile with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada all claiming to be where it was first invented in the 1920s.

Everyone agrees, however, that the first modern snowmobile was introduced by Minnesota-based Polaris.

Edgar and Allen Hetteen and David Johnson of Roseau, Minnesota were among the first to build a usable snowmobile in 1955–1956. Early snow machines were heavy and slow.

The company they started, Hetteen Hoist & Derrick Co., eventually became Polaris Industries. In 1959, when engines became lighter and smaller, Bombardier invented what we now know as the modern snowmobile and began to market it as the "Ski-doo".

Competitors began to copy and improve the design and to manufacture and ship snowmobiles across the country and around the world for work and recreational use.

Early snowmobiles were modified Ford Model Ts with the undercarriage replaced with tracks and skis. They were popular for rural mail delivery for a time.

Another preeminent snowmobile manufacturers shares in the history of the snowmobile. The Arctic Cat brand name is among the most widely recognized and respected names in the snowmobile industry.

Some Artic Cat snowmobile history timelines include:

  • 1955: Pete Peterson commissions a 'gas-powered sled' from Hetteen Hoist and Derrick.
  • 1958: Snowmobiles become the primary business of Hetteen Hoist and Derrick, later renamed Polaris Industries.
  • 1960: Hetteen sells controlling interest in Polaris Industries.
  • 1961: Hetteen moved operations to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and founded Polar Manufacturing Company.
  • 1962: Polar Manufacturing is renamed Arctic Enterprises, Inc.; Arctic Cat 100, the first front-engined sport sled, is introduced.

Development of the snowmobile led to a revolution in how Minnesotans view winter. Minnesota now has tens of thousands of residents riding thousands of miles of marked and groomed trails and loving Minnesota snowmobiling.

Communities all over the state benefit from the history of snowmobiling by sponsoring extreme snowmobiling events and races.

The snowmobile has had a positive impact on the Minnesota tourism industry, farming, and ranching, and search-and-rescue efforts. In times of blizzards and snow emergencies we often rely on snowmobiles to transport residents to needed services or destinations.

Snowmobiling has contributed millions of dollars to countless small businesses throughout Minnesota. Of the hundreds of manufacturers that entered the snowmobile business, only four remain., Two of those are major employers in northern Minnesota: Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls and Polaris in Roseau.

The History of Snowmobiling in Minnesota is
Celebrated with Vintage Snowmobile Races

More Vintage Snowmobiling Videos


More Winter Sports Links:

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Extreme Snowmobiling

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Cross-Country Skiing Basics

How to Ice Skate

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Dogsledding Tours in Minnesota

Extreme Sledding

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Minnesota Winter Activities

List of Winter Sports

Minnesota Ski Resorts

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