It seems the older we get, the more interested we are in history… World War II? Seemed boring in Mr. Norbert’s history class in 7th grade. Now, I find myself watching documentaries about it on PBS. Abraham Lincoln? Sounds like a fine enough historic figure who certainly did good things and saved the Union back in his day, but when Mr. Breault was showing a film about him in 11th grade, I was far more interested in daydreaming about spending time with Karen Johnson across the room than I was staring at the screen and learning about the guy in the tall hat. Now I want to own the movie.
Well, if you’re now interested in catching up on the history of the snowmobile market, we’ve got 5 places for you to start in this week’s Friday Fast Five here on snowgoer.com. There are a lot more than 5 great books about snowmobiling — there are piles of them (quite literally — you ought to see my bookshelf). But if you’re going to start from scratch, we’d suggest starting with history books on each manufacturer, plus the bible of early-day snowmobile racing. Here’s our list.
1. “50 Years of the Cat” — Authored by John Sandberg as a part of Arctic Cat’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2011, this is more of a picture book than a text book, but it works very, very well. It celebrates the significant snowmobiles, the racers and engineers, the innovative ideas and many other things that grew out of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, from the Polar Engineering days all the way up to the ProCross chassis. It’s a great book for any snowmobile enthusiast, but if you’re a Cat fan, it’s a must-have. EXTRA READING: For those seeking a more in-depth look at the early days of the Arctic Cat brand, check out “Legend” by the late CJ Ramstad.
2. “The Legend Of Polaris” — Written by Jeffrey Rodengen and Richard Hubbard in 2003, it traces Polaris’ history from 1944, when Edgar Hetteen launched Hetteen Hoist & Derrick in Roseau, Minnesota, with brother-in-law David Johnson. The snowmobile invention would have to wait another 10 years, against Hetteen’s will at first. It’s certainly more than a snowmobile book, just like Polaris has become much more than a snowmobile company, so get ready for a heavy dose of ATVs, personal watercraft and even Victory motorcycles. Given Polaris’ amazing growth the last 10 years, this book is probably due for an update. EXTRA READING: For more Polaris history, check out Jerry Bassett’s “Polaris Pioneers” or “Polaris Partners.” For snowmobile model specific history, Michael Dapper’s “Illustrated Polaris Snowmobile Buyer’s Guide” (1954-1994) is a nice find.
3. “Ski-Doo 50 Years: Experience 50 Years of Snowmobile Reinvention” — Ski-Doo celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, and like the others, a book celebrating the company’s history was a part of the scene. The company’s history goes back much further, with J. Armand Bombardier pledging way back in 1907 that he was going to build over-snow transportation. Many books have been written about this incredible and celebrated inventor, especially in Canada. But the 50 Years book is the most up-to-date look at the Ski-Doo brand, year-by-year and model-by-model, so we chose it. EXTRA READING: Two other good books that take you through specific Ski-Doo models and innovations are written by the former Snow Goer Tech Professor, Phil Mickelson. They are “The Collectors Guide to Ski-Doo Snowmobiles (1959-1995)” and “Ski-Doo Racing Sleds 1960-2003 Photo Archive.”
4. “Yamaha 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” — Written by Jon Bertolino, it celebrates the “newest” of the remaining snowmobile brands. New, that is, if you consider (now) 45 years in the snowmobile business still being damp behind the ears! This 5-year-old book takes readers through the years, looking in depth at specific models that helped define the Yamaha snowmobile brand — from the 1968 SL350 to the Enticers, Exciters, SR-Vs, SRXes, GPXes, through the Phazer, Snoscoot, Vmaxes and SX Viper and up through the current four-stroke era, starting with the famed RX-1. Like Sandberg’s book about Cat, this book relies very heavily on beautiful colorful photos to tell the story.
5. “Warriors Of Winter” — Bill Vint’s pieced together history of snowmobile racing from 1913 to the 1976-77 season is an odd collection of snippets of information, jumping around in each chapter from details on specific races to status reports on the snowmobile market to behind-the-scenes rules meetings that affected snowmobiling history. It’s not a book you pick up and read from one cover to the other. Instead, it’s a bit of a snowmobile bible in which the reader hunts and pecks for information, and ultimately turns to time and again to see the old, grainy black and white images of snowmobiling’s greatest competitions. I have spent more time with this book than any book I have ever owned — on any topic. And I enjoy it more each time I pick it up. EXTRA READING: If Eagle River history appeals to you, the “Of Ice & Engineers” book capture the first 25 years of Derby history by CJ Ramstad and Bob Satran is a nice addition.
Have other books you think we should have included? Let us know in the comment section below.