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When Was the First Snowmobile?

Updated on February 16, 2011
Edgar and the Sno-Traveler in Alaska, 1960.
Edgar and the Sno-Traveler in Alaska, 1960.

Who was Edgar Hetteen?

They are so very common now. Visit any ski resort and they will be there, usually for quick ski rescue. But, it was not until 1960, the first was on the market by a man who never went to high school. This is the Edgar Hetteen legacy. He, alone, thought of and created the first snowmobile, which he called, Sno-traveler.

Edgar had bought a machine shop in Minnesota and started tinkering with a grain silo conveyor belt, an old Chevy bumper and other miscellaneous parts, he ended up with a very early prototype in 1954 with a 10 HP engine. It was called, "Screaming Lena". The tinkering continued and by 1960, his machine shop was now called Polaris Industries and the product?

The first snowmobile, the Sno-Traveler. To prove that it had worth and value, he took it on a 1200 mile run across the Alaskan wilderness with his wife leaving Bethel. Each had a snowmobile towing their supplies on toboggans. The devices reached a whopping 10 mph and for the next three weeks they traveled to Fairbanks. When they arrived, it was like people seeing the first automobile- they just stared and wondered.

By the late 60's, the snowmobile industry was in full swing and by 2005, annual sales reached $161 million. He also designed and created the Posi-Track, now used in the US Army, which can travel on muddy or snowy terrain. It is used to clear minefields

Edgar recently died at age 90. That is how the snowmobile happened.

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