To say that snowmobiling is popular in the Upper Midwest would be an understatement. Ever since the sport took off in the late 1960s as an exhilarating cure for cabin fever, the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have been at the forefront.
Snowmobiling has deep roots in the Upper Midwest, where the idea of motorized winter travel captured the imagination of forward-thinking innovators. The Eliason Motor Toboggan of the 1920s had its genesis in Sayner, Wisconsin, while both Polaris and Arctic Cat trace their legendary history in northwestern Minnesota. Yamaha maintains U.S. headquarters for its snowmobile division in neighboring Wisconsin.
The excellence of snowmobiling in these states is directly attributable to the efforts of snowmobile clubs. With the permission of landowners and local business support, clubs established interconnecting trail networks and worked together to mark, maintain and groom them. Today, there are more than 950 snowmobile clubs across Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with state associations promoting safe and responsible riding on systems of marked and groomed snowmobile trails.
Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is usually blessed with plenty of snow, not only from the typical systems that move eastward across the continent, but by other phenomena as well. “Alberta clippers” are fast-moving Canadian systems that bring several inches of light, fluffy snow. Most impressive are the “panhandle hook” storms that draw moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, then deposit heavy snowfalls as they move northeast, often across southern Wisconsin and lower Michigan. Impressive lake-effect snows occur on Lake Superior’s southern shore and Lake Michigan’s eastern coast when prevailing winds bring airborne moisture ashore. Here’s a closer look at each state in the traditional heart of snowmobile country: