A snowmobile (or snow scooter, often referred to by enthusiasts as a 'sled' and in the Canadian north and Alaska as a 'snowmachine') is a land vehicle propelled by one or two rubber tracks, with skis for steering. more...
They are designed to be operated on snow and ice, and require no road or trail. Most snowmobiles are typically powered by two-stroke gasoline/petrol internal combustion engines. Even though they are not designed for it, snowmobiles will skim on top of water if the speed is high enough, as demonstrated by the annual snowmobile river drag race in Kautokeino, Norway. Summertime occupations for snowmobile enthusiasts can involve drag racing on grass or even asphalt strips.
The earliest snowmobiles were modified Ford Model Ts with the undercarriage replaced with tracks and skis. They were popular for rural mail delivery for a time. This early history can be traced to Carl Eliason in Saynor, Wisconsin with his first hand built model completed in 1924. He was granted a U.S. patent in 1927. Polaris Industries in Roseau, Minnesota, in the United States Midwest, was a pioneer in the production of purpose-built snowmobiles.
The relatively dry snow conditions of the United States Midwest made the converted model Ts and other like vehicles not suitable for operation in more humid snow areas such as Southern Quebec. This led Joseph-Armand Bombardier of the small town of Valcourt in Quebec, Canada, to invent a different caterpillar track system suitable for all kinds of snow conditions. (The Kegresse track, a similar rubber track, was used on off-road halftrack military trucks before and during World War Two. It was developed by France and used in a variety of combat vehicles by the U.S. ) He started production of a large, enclosed, seven-passenger snowmobile in 1937, and introduced another enclosed twelve-passenger model in 1942.
It was only in 1959 that he invented what we know as the modern snowmobile in its open-cockpit one- or two-person form, and started selling it as the "Ski-doo". Competitors sprang up and copied and improved his design. In the 1970s there were hundreds of snowmobile manufacturers. From 1970 to 1973 they sold close to two million machines, a sales summit never since equalled. Many of the snowmobile companies were small outfits and the biggest manufacturers were often attempts by motorcycle makers and outboard motor makers to branch off in a new market. Most of these companies went bankrupt during the gasoline crisis of 1973 and succeeding recessions, or were bought up by the larger ones. Sales reached a peak of 260,000 in 1997 and went down gradually, influenced by warmer winters and the use during all four seasons of small one- or two-person ATVs. Bombardier Recreational Products, a former division of the first company, still makes snowmobiles, outboard motors, personal watercraft, and ATVs. The snowmobile market is now divided up between four big makers: Bombardier, Arctic Cat, Yamaha, and Polaris. Modern snowmobiles can achieve speeds in excess of 193 km/h (120mph). (Racing snowmobiles reach speeds in excess of 241 km/h ).
Read more at Wikipedia.org