A simple beginning and inevitable evolution
It is rather obvious that snowmobiling`s pioneers, a long list of innovators beginning with American Carl Eliason at the beginning of the 1920`s, envisioned a largely practical and utilitarian vehicle that would facilitate daily life during our long North American winters. However, the beginning of the snowmobile mass production era at the end of the 50`s and start of the 60`s quickly altered that landscape, transforming the snowmobile into a recreational vehicle.
Now easily accessible in practically all corners of the snow belt, notably in Quebec where numerous manufacturers appeared practically overnight, snowmobile sales exploded, fueled by a rapidly expanding dealer network. Thousands of enthusiasts begin to organise themselves into clubs, allowing them to share their passion for this new activity with other like-minded persons. Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon occurred simultaneously across all Canadian provinces and American states. Snowmobile sales at the time were in the hundreds of thousands of units, producing rapid growth in this pool of new snowmobilers.
Human ingenuity and ambition being what they are, numerous clubs began structuring themselves into more formal organizations, for example, by building trail networks or clubhouses. Motivated by the desire to enhance the trail riding experience, signage began to appear, along with the use of rapidly developing grooming technology. In addition to improving the social aspects of the activity, these changes added to the safety aspect, the vehicles of the day not being particularly renowned for their unfailing reliability.
Snowmobiling was also in the midst of another reality. In a society that was significantly more rural than today, snowmobiles rapidly became a “must have” item out in the countryside. Unfortunately, unregulated circulation by these thousands of sleds quickly became problematic, notably for farmers and landowners who had to suffer through uncontrolled access to their land. Affected parties quickly began pressuring the government to get involved and find a solution, and authorities turned to snowmobiles clubs for help to remedy the problem
At the same time, Bombardier, in 1971, launched l’Opération Sentier (Operation Trail), an initiative whose objective was to assist clubs with trail maintenance. In more concrete terms, Bombardier provided extremely favourable conditions for the purchase of (Skidozer) groomers, resulting in rapidly improving trail conditions. This program initiated a rapid structuring movement as clubs were required to meet certain conditions to access funding for new equipment and infrastructure. No longer simply social groups, clubs had to become incorporated as not-for-profit organisations, a structure which still exists today.