The History of Snowmobiles in Canada

Because snowmobiles are so popular, you might think they are a recent invention. Someone however, thought of putting a motor on a sled back in the 1920s. Individuals in both the United States and Canada have tried to find a fast and inexpensive way to travel on snow.

How would you make a snowmobile in your backyard? Would you put a motor on skis or skis on a motor? Here’s what some inventors tried.

One put a steam engine on skis and runners. Another put skis on an automobile frame. Some winterized motorcycles and others tried propellers.

There were some successes, but they were usually too bulky, too expensive, or too limited in use.

During the 1930s, designs improved. Today’s snowmobiles use the basic ideas of these 1930s machines. Snowmobiles were used for carrying troops in World War II. Research continues to make an even better machine. By 1960, a small, fairly inexpensive machine was available for personal use.


How the snowmobile came to be.

Snowmobiling became a sport as well as a way of traveling. People tried these snow machines, and soon wanted one.

By 1970, more than 60 companies had produced well over one million machines. Today, four companies build almost all the snowmobiles manufactured in North America. As snowmobiles grew in popularity, additional equipment became available,

Snowmobiles have opened up the winter to people of all ages who used to stay inside. Surveys show over 80% consider snowmobiling a family sport. In fact, there are more than three million active snowmobilers in the United States and Canada, Other sports enthusiasts also benefit from snowmobilers. There are more than 230,000 miles of groomed public snowmobile trails in the U.S. and Canada. Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders often use them both summer and winter.

Many snowmobilers have organized programs to improve their sport. In 1973, an organization was formed called the International Snowmobile Council (ISC). Its purpose is to provide a basis for communication between snowmobile groups across the U.S. and Canada.

The Snowmobile Community

There are nearly 3,000 snowmobile clubs in the United States and Canada. Snowmobile clubs are nonprofit and volunteer driven. They are grassroots groups based in local communities. In addition, there are 27 state associations in the United States and 12 provincial and territorial snowmobile
organizations in Canada.

Snowmobile clubs and snowmobile rental companies in British Columbia working with state and provincial organizations carry out numerous recreational and community service programs by:

  • constructing, maintaining and mapping trails;
  • working with government officials on surveying and designing trails;
  • sponsoring snowmobile outings and year-round social activities;
  • monitoring/initiating legislation;
  • participating in public hearings;
  • commenting on government proposals;
  • conducting safety and maintenance clinics;
  • volunteering services as certified safety instructors;
  • publishing newsletters and newspapers;
  • providing vital services to sheriff’s departments, police and civil defence units by organizing specially trained search and rescue units. These patrol and rescue units engage in a variety of activities:
  • they are on 24-hour call for emergencies;
  • they patrol vacation home sites;
  • they assist police in traffic control;
  • they patrol trails, search for hikers, skiers, hunters, children and others who are lost;
  • assist conservation officers in emergency wildlife-feeding activities.

Today, snowmobile clubs from 30 states and 11 provinces of Canada belong to the ISC. These clubs participate in many recreational and community service
programs. They develop and maintain over 230,000 miles of public trails. Clubs sponsor snowmobile safaris, and conduct maintenance clinics. They help with organized search and rescue units, as well as assist conservation officers in emergency wildlife feeding activities.
Snowmobile clubs help make the sport more enjoyable and safer for everyone. Snowmobilers are a proud and dedicated group who would like to share their sport with you. If you are not a member, ask your instructor about local clubs, or contact your state club association.


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