No ski resort, mountain rescue team, or northerly village is complete without at least a few snowmobiles, nimble vehicles purpose-built to glide across snow and ice. Snowmobiles are used as service vehicles, for recreational purposes, and even turn up in several extreme sports events. Despite how familiar they are to people around the world, not many would know that snowmobiles were invented by a Quebecois teenager.
According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the snowmobile was invented by a man named Joseph-Armand Bombardier. Though he would go on to have a highly successful career as an inventor, his most well-known invention was completed by the time he was 15. Bombardier grew up in a small farming town in Quebec, Canada. Having taken to mechanics at an early age, Bombardier created a primitive snowmobile by attaching an engine-powered propeller to two wooden sleds. The contraption traveled for nearly a mile until Bombardier’s father ordered it dismantled over safety concerns. It was certainly humble beginnings for the snowmobile.
The snowmobile became a personal obsession
According to the Museum of Ingenuity, Bombardier made a name for himself in his area as a mechanical wizard before he turned 20, opening his own garage in 1926 at the age of 19. He noticed how difficult it was for the remote villages of Quebec to connect to each other, particularly in the harsh winters when heavy snowfall made the roads impassable. He would return to his idea of the propeller-sled and spend years trying to perfect the design to make it lightweight enough to travel across snow.
He was also motivated by personal tragedy. In 1934, his toddler son would pass away from peritonitis, partly because his parents were unable to reach a hospital, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Fueled by this preventable loss, Bombardier would find a breakthrough and file a patent in 1935 and would be approved two years later. Opting against selling the patent for a decent profit, Bombardier decides to develop it himself, turning his garage into the world’s first snowmobile factory. Bombardier would later help design military snowmobiles for World War II as his company grew until snowmobiles soon became synonymous with areas of heavy snowfall — all stemming from an experimental contraption put together by a 15-year-old boy.
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