Did you know that snowmobile sales grew by 16.1% in the U.S. during the 2021 sales season? As a result of the industry boom, many dealerships ran out of stock before the year’s end!
One of the best-selling snowmobile models in 2021 was the Polaris 850 Switchback Assault, an American made snowmobile perfect for shredding.
Buying products made in America helps local and national economies, keeps Americans working, and provides you with a higher quality product. If you’re thinking about buying a snowmobile soon, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about American made snowmobiles.
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Polaris Inc. manufactures some of the best American snowmobiles and UTVs in the game. While headquartered in Minnesota, most of the production occurs in Wisconsin or Iowa where their production facilities are.
David Johnson and Allen Hetteen founded Polaris back in 1954, to make tough hunting locations more accessible. The result was what’s known as the No.1 sled that used a grain silo conveyor belt as a track, a Briggs and Stratton Motor, and the bumper of an old Chevy for skis. A lumberjack owner in the area later bought the “Franken-mobile” for $465, or about $4,500 in today’s economy.
At the present, Polaris is the most popular American-made brand in the snowmobiling world and continues to see new levels of growth each year. Sales were up 29% in Q4 (October-December) of 2020 compared to the year before.
One of their highest-rated snowmobiles last year is the Polaris 650 Indy VR1. This performance snowmobile features a liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, horizontal in-line engine. It also showcases their patented Cleanfire Injection Fuel and Patriot 3DS ignition systems.
It’s a great sled for beginners and is named the 2021 Snowmobile of the Year by SnowGoer Magazine.
Arctic Cat is an American manufacturer of off-road vehicles (ORVs), specifically snowmobiles and ATVs. They are based in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and have a very peculiar history with Polaris Inc.
Legend has it that back in the late 50s, Edgar Hetteen, Allen Hetteen, and David Johnson had a falling out that caused the team to break off. Edgar Hetteen started a competing company, Polar Manufacturing, then later changed the name to Arctic Cat. Ironically, Textron Industries, the parent company of Polaris Inc., later bought Arctic Cat in 2017.
When it comes to sleds, Arctic Cat produces some of the best money can buy. Their 2021 ZR 9000 Thundercat 137 ARS is the fastest production sled to date.
The model uses a CET-C4 (4-stroke), 200-horsepower horizontal in-line engine with an electronic fuel injection system and electric starter. The machine also features Arctic Cat’s ATAC (Adjustable On-the-Fly Electronic Suspension) suspension system.
The system allows you to adjust to soft, medium, or firm suspension with the touch of a button. The controls are mounted on the handlebars and automatically adjust the Fox Zero IQs gas shocks fitted on the sled.
Some of the key benefits of the Thundercat 137 are its handling ability, upgraded parts and systems, and power.
While their new, technologically advanced sleds are certainly impressive, the company is most famous for their 2003 “Skinny Mini” M Series models. The line featured slimmer tracks and utilized mechanical components differently than previous models, which allowed for more efficient functioning. The result of these configurations was a very popular sled for mountain riding.
Tucker Sno-Cat is a family-owned American-based snow vehicle manufacturing company based in Medford, Oregon. Its snowcats differ from the competition in that they feature 4 sets of individually mounted tracks.
During their prototyping stage, Tucker used a 2-track system, like we see on modern snow machines today, but for industry purposes, the company switched to 4-track systems.
Their exclusive snowcat design is featured regularly throughout American history, having been used in polar regions for exploration, transportation, and trail grooming. The most notable of these was the Trans-Antarctic expedition headed by English explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs.
There aren’t too many American snowmobile manufacturers still in operation. Many were bought out or filed for bankruptcy due to market changes in the 70s and 80s. Even though they’ve long stopped production, there are a few companies throughout history that contributed greatly to the development of the industry.
Gilson Brothers Co.
The Gilson Brothers Co. was an American manufacturer of outdoor power equipment based in Wisconsin. They made one snowmobile: the bold, orange 1971 Gilson Brother 432.
There is very little information about the sled available, but we do know it was made out of cast iron and frequently makes it out of storage and into auctions on eBay. Unfortunately, Gilson stopped making snowmobiles and sold it to Lawn Boy in 1988.
Between 1972 and 1984, John Deere designed snowmobiles on top of their everyday tractors and lawn equipment.
They got into the manufacturing process by testing and improving the engineering of other sleds. They produced a total of 21 models during their 12-year run, which featured engines from Kawasaki, Kioritz, and CCW.
In 1974, they put together a cross-country snocross team that went along with the release of their first cross-country model, the 295/s. The Enduro Team Deere took home a few big wins, including the 1976 St. Paul International 500.
As a result of the market crashes during 1982-1984 and the resignation of Robert Carlson, the snowmobile program closed. All of the parts and resources were sold to Polaris. While there were agreements that Polaris would continue to produce sleds for Deere dealers that wanted to sell them, this never worked out.
Logan Manufacturing Company (LMC)
LMC, previously known as the DeLorean Motor Company, was a U.S. manufacturer of snowcats that built their first prototype in 1946 at the University of Utah.
After 6 years of prototyping, the engineers on the team began producing a series of snowcats under the brand name Frandee Sno-Shu. In 1961, the Utah Scientific Foundation sold the business to Thiokol Corp and moved production to Logan, Utah.
In 1978, John DeLorean bought the business from them and renamed it to the DeLorean Motor Company. In 1982, after John DeLorean’s drug scandal, the company went bankrupt. To get their head above water, executives at DeLorean renamed the company once more to the Logan Manufacturing Company.
While LMC is no longer in operation after their final declare of bankruptcy in 2000, they did produce one snowcat model that is quite impressive.
The famous LMC 1500 differs from their past LMC 1200 model in a few key ways. The cab is more modernized with a wider cab size, an optional rear-seat heater, and air ride seats— a feature not found in previous models. The 1500 also drives faster and provides more power when chugging uphill.
One of the other key features that differentiate it from the 1200 is its asymmetrical tracks with shorter cleats. The asymmetrical design allows for better grip, braking, and handling than their symmetrical counterpart.
Kristi was another U.S. manufacturer of snowcats. They originally manufactured products in Colorado, but later moved production to Washington.
One of the most interesting components to these machines is their use of a propeller instead of a track to drive the vehicle.
In 1947, Kristi began developing a snowplane. To drive the vehicle, the operator had a control switch that let the machine tilt side to side. This allowed the driver to lift one ski and lower the other to surmount side slopes as high as 45-degrees and make high-speed turns with sliding.
The design of the vehicle was modeled after “the Christie,” a common ski angling technique. This maneuver allows skiers to take turns at higher speeds while remaining in control. The theory is that by applying these angling techniques to a snowplane, the vehicle will make safer and faster turns on a lake that is completely frozen over.
Interestingly enough, the name Kristi came from this specific feature found exclusively on their products.
Of course, Kristi didn’t only make the snowplane, they also had a fair share of track vehicles. These tracked snowcats utilized the same angling technology as their snowplanes, but in a more practical manner.
American Motor Sleigh
This is the first snowmobile noted in American history. It was designed by American Motor Sleigh Co. in 1905 to travel on snow. It featured a single-cylinder engine, a prolonged steering wheel, and runners instead of tires.
Sledding with American Made Snowmobiles
An American snowmobile is an investment worth making. Sleds made in the States are some of the best in the world.
Now you know everything you need to know about American made snowmobiles. Time to hit the snow, and get to freeriding! Or trail riding, if you prefer that.
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