Skip to the content

Snowmobiles Throughout a Century

Today‘s snowmobiles are designed for winter travel in rural snowy areas and for recreation on glaciers, frozen lakes and in open terrain. The snowmobiles do not requre a road or a trail and are therefore excellent for hauling cargo and transferring people in areas which are not accessible otherwise. In later years, snowmobiling has also become a popular sport and a serious hobby.

The development of the snowmobile has been dramatic during the last century. In the beginning the snowmobiles used rubber tracks. Today the tracks are made of kevlar composite. Earlier they were powered by two-stroke combustions engines, later - four stroke engines have entered on the market. Older snowmobiles generally accommode two people but in the last 25 years have mainly been designed for single riders. Snowmobiles do not have any enclosures, except for a windshield. Skis at the front provide directional control.

In the second half of the 20th century we saw the rise of recreational snowmobiling, the riders are called snowmobilers. The riding is also called snowrcoss. Snowmobiles have sometimes been modified in order to compete in offroad races such as the Vegas to Reno race.

The first snowmobiles

The first patent for a snowmobile - vehicle - was issued in the US in the year 1916. Later the famous Ford Model T was modified as a snow-vehicle, by replacing the undercarriage by tracks and skis. They were very popular for delivering mail in rural areas. The people of Wisconsin, USA experimented with snow vehicles before 1900, using bicycles modified with runners and gripping fins and steam propelled sleights and later the Model T Ford.

Cross country transportation in the early 20th century was a great challenge and led to invention and modifying of the first snowmobiles or snow vehicles. These vehicles were able to run at a moderate speed. The early models had 10 hp’s, while today's snowmobiles have up to 200 hp’s. The evolving of the snowmobile is not a work of a one man or inventor. It has followed the process of development for other vehicles like motor cars and airplanes, as they mostly use the same components for different use.


The father of today's snowmobile, Carl Eliasson of Sayner, Wisconsin developed the prototype of the modern snowmobile. He mounted a 2 cylinder motorcycle engine on a long sled, steered it with long skis in the frond and propelled it with a single track. He made 40 snowmobiles, got his patent in 1927 but had to sell the patent when he received an order for 200 snowmobiles from Finland.

Igor Sikorsky the helicopter manufacturer built the Aerosani in 1910. The vehicle was used by the Soviet Army during the Winter War and World War II.

Numerous people had ideas for a smaller personal snowmobile. In 1914 the Bushnell company in South Dakota, built an open two-seater "motor-bob" out of a motorcycle, with a cowl-cover, side-by-side seating, and a set of sled-runners fore and aft.

The first practical snowmobile, Polaris, was built in Minnesota 1955-1956. The first machines were heavy (1,000 lb or 450 kg) and slow (20 mph or 32 km/h).

In 1960, the engines became smaller and lighter than before. The invention now known as the mordern snowmobile Ski-Doo was built that year. The ski-doo had an open-cockpit, one or two person form. Later other manufactures copied and improved the Ski-Doo design.

Alpina Snowmobiles are manufactured in Italy. There are two manufacturers of dual-track snowmobiles. One is Alpina and the other is a Russian sled called Buran. Alpina manufactures one basic dual-track snowmobile design. In 2002 the Sherpa was introduced. It is designed as a working snowmobile for carrying supplies, pulling cargo sleds and negotiating deep snow.

As of 2003, the snowmobile market has been shared between the four large North American makers. Bombardier, Arctic Cat, Yamaha and Polaris. Some specialized makers like the Quebec-based AD Boivin, manufacturer of the Snow Hawk and the European Alpina snowmobile.

Recreation and Sport on snowmobiles

Snowmobiling in Iceland is mainly recreational. Individuals buy snowmobile to use for outdoors activity, riding over snow covered terrain, into valleys and up mountains. A few tour operators in Iceland offer glacier tours which are very popular. Some of our guests have hardly seen snow and definitely not a glacier. Our company Arctic Glacier tours has been in operations since 1996. The first snowmobile was of the Ski-doo make - Today’s brand is Arctic Cat and we operate 70 snowmobiles. Demand for the tours is very high. Snowmobiling is an activity you can only experience in the northern countries.

Arcanum Snowmobile Tours

Our snowmobile tours are the perfect length of time for first-time riders and individuals looking for a scenic, fun ride, exploring and experiencing the wilderness, glacier and the breathtaking views over South Iceland in good weather. We provide you with everything you need for a safe and comfortable ride. Our guides will take you through safety procedures and equip you in special clothing and helmets. The snowmobiles will not be a problem – it is just a matter of squeezing the accelerator or the brake. A valid driver's license is required.

Source: Wikipedia


License and quality