When Did Snowmobiles Become Popular?


Snowmobiles were first invented in Canada to solve the problem of winter transportation. The first Snowmobiles were developed as a utility and gained popularity in the mid-1970s when people started using them for recreational purposes. Snowmobiles advanced from different innovations that took place for more than a decade. In 1922, Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the first propeller-driven sled with the ability to glide over snow. Bombardier’s invention served as a prototype for modern snowmobiles. At this time, snowmobiles couldn’t gain popularity due to their low efficiency and unattractive designs. 

Advancement of Snowmobile Technology

An invention of Joseph-Armand Bombardier resulted in further advancement of snowmobile technology. In 1927 Carl Eliason developed a one-person, single-track, engine-powered patented snow toboggan. The snow toboggan had an excellent handle and more power. Carl Eliason added more features to the vehicle making it more efficient and fit for the market. In the 1930s, many people knew about the snowmobiles but didn’t gain much popularity because people only used them for a few transportation needs. 

In 1937, Joseph-Armand Bombardier produced a patented seven-seat B7 snowmobile. The B7 snowmobile was popular among a few people: country doctors, ambulance drivers, and priests residing in remote areas. With time, the B7 snowmobile’s popularity expanded to retail businesses, transport companies, telephone companies, mail carriers, electrical utilities, and forestry operations. After the start of world war 2, Bombardier patented the B12- more powerful and became popular among the Canadian Armed Forces. 

When did Snowmobiles Flood the Market?

At the beginning of the 1940s, many companies started manufacturing snowmobiles. This resulted in the innovation of new designs and increased efficiency.  Snowmobiles produced at this time were larger, slower, and more inept than modern snowmobiles. Snowmobiles were popular among the hunters, trappers, and power company service crews. J-Armand Bombardier had spent decades patenting and perfecting features, and in 1959 he launched the Ski-Doo snowmobile. The lighter and more mobile machines were a huge success with the public. Different companies produced different versions of snowmobiles, giving rise to the sport of snowmobiling. In 1963, snowmobiles with rubber tracks were produced. 

By the end of the 1966-67 winter, there were 200,000 snowmobiles in use. Enthusiasts coordinated festivals, group rides, trail-grooming events, and charity events. In the early 1970s snowmobiles had many features making them perfect for recreational purposes. Snowmobiling was the most popular recreational activity. Snowmobiles gained popularity and in 1971 alone, about 500,000 snowmobiles were purchased. Snowmobile magazines were over 100 pages thick to accommodate all the snowmobile ads. In 1973, snowmobile sales dropped to 450,000 as some weak manufacturers closed up after the EPA regulations for noise. By 1974, snowmobiles became less popular again with the gas price increasing by 300%. During winter, snowmobiling became a popular sport and was inexpensive for people to enjoy the winter, increasing the sales of snowmobiles. Just 13 years after the production of the first Ski-Doo, there were more than 100 snowmobile manufacturers. 

What Led to the Decrease in Snowmobile Sales?

Poor snow conditions and the second oil crisis in 1979 saw snowmobiles’ popularity decrease with less than 200,000 unit sales. By the late 1970s, snowmobiling became so popular and was on the national news as America’s hottest new trend. Snowmobiles at this time had sales predicted to be over one million units per year. By the 1980s, snowmobiles were the most unexceptional fact of winter life. Snowmobiling became a new economic activity for people who spent their previous winters mostly indoors. In the 1980s snowmobiles decreased in popularity. During this decade, the trail systems were not well established, the snowfall was scarce, and there was no technological advancement to the previous sleds. However, in the late 1980s, Polaris Independent Front Suspension (IFS)  led to new technological innovations in snowmobiles. 

The Polaris IFS was so superior in ride quality and handling, game-changing, and had remarkable power. In the 1990s, led by Polaris, snowmobiles’ popularity saw a huge resurgence with sales increasing to numbers not seen in a decade. In 1999 alone, snowmobile unit sales totaled more than 230,000 units. In the new millennium, snowmobiles had seen their ideal evolution of design and improved handling. Snowmobiles suspensions were improved leading to the production of purpose-built snowmobiles for the mountains, touring, crossovers, and trail performance. By this time, over 2.5 million snowmobiles had been sold.

When did Snowmobiles Hit the Market Again? 

In the 2000s, the snowmobile industry saw a radical change with more than 200,000 miles of marked and groomed trails. With high-tech innovations, snowmobiling became a sport of all ages. Snowmobiles with four-stroke engines were produced. The four-stroke engines produced more power and were highly efficient. In 2009, the snowmobile industry recorded worldwide sales of more than 147,000 units. The snowmobiles industry’s lobby group reports sled registrations increased by eight percent in Canada and by one percent in the US. The second half of the 20th century saw an increase in recreational snowmobiling.

In the 21st century, snowmobiles have increased in popularity with Ski-Doo and Yamaha undergoing major innovations. Ski-Doo presented snowmobiles with the ride-forward design and the electronic reverse. Today’s snowmobiles are designed for winter travel in rural snowy areas, and for recreation in frozen lakes, glaciers, and open terrain. This has increased snowmobiles’ popularity on a large scale. And today, there are over 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the US and over 596,000 registered snowmobiles in Canada. In 2021 alone, snowmobiles 133, 444 snowmobiles were sold, with the US leading with 59,234 sales and Canada having 50,567 sales. 

Over the years, snowmobiles have gained much popularity. In 2020, the snowmobile market was valued at $1.59 billion and is anticipated to reach $2.13 billion by 2030. Snowmobiles’ popularity is seen to rise as they are easy to use for navigation, operate at high speed, and require no training or license to handle. The introduction of snowmobiles technology has led to the production of electrically-propelled snowmobiles embracing sports activities, safety & security purposes. Snowmobiles technology can increase snowmobiles driving range and is a key element propelling snowmobiles’ popularity across the globe. Do you want to learn more about snowmobiles? Visit website for more information on snowmobiles parts.

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