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The history of the modern recreational snowmobile is quite recent, but snow travel dates back many years, although man actually flew before mastering snow travel.
While the Wright brothers flew in 1903, the very first vehicle built to go in the snow wasn’t made until 1908.
That was the Lombard timber dumper designed and built in Waterville, Maine. It was a large, unwieldy machine that resembled a steam locomotive, except it had a half-track design and front skis.
In 1909, a man named OC Johnson built an over the snow machine that went on top of the snow when he was working. It was about ten feet long, used a tracked design, “a 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-powered sled with a Model T engine. This was 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 motorcycle toboggan run.
It was a wooden toboggan run with two skis steered by ropes, powered by a 2.5 hp Johnson outboard motor, and pushed along an endless steel track.
It was a front-mounted, liquid-cooled engine that used a jack shaft. These are all qualities attributed to modern snowmobiles.
Mr. Eliason patented and manufactured his machine until 1939, when he sold it to FWD Corporation of Canada, who continued to build it until 1960.
It was not until 1954 that the modern recreational snowmobile was born. David Johnson was a partner of Alan and Edgar Hetteen of Polaris Industries.
mr. Johnson made his design of a snowmobile on a weekend adventure, unknown to the other two partners. This became the very first Polaris, which has remained a leading name in snowmobile design to this day.