This December, a date will come and go as just another mark on the 2019 calendar. A date that should not have slipped away without mention ten years ago but it did. A date that is arguably one of the most important dates in the history of the town of Lancaster, New Hampshire. One that should be celebrated with a parade, a dance, or the very least, front page news in the Coos County Democrat.
Ski-Doo Introduced First Snowmobile in NH
Because 60 years ago on December 4, 1959, a single-axle 1957 Chevrolet tractor pulling a single axle flatbed trailer, driven by Albert “Burt” Morin slipped quietly into town late that afternoon. Along with a few Bombardier J 5 and Muskeg parts delivered for Timberland Machines, there was a six-foot-long wooden crate.
Little did anyone know at the time that the 1960 Ski-Doo inside this crate would forever change the face of winter as we knew it. It would, in a short few years, transport this sleepy northern New Hampshire village onto the world stage, bring much needed wealth to town as well as to Timberland Machines Inc.
They would soon outgrow their small building on Canal Street, moving into a brand-new modern facility at the head of Main Street, all because of what was contained in that little wooden crate.
Yes, folks, unless you have just returned from living on a deserted tropical island for 60 years, I’m talking about the Bombardier Ski-Doo. Joseph Armand Bombardier’s masterpiece.
Even he didn’t see the recreational potential of his new invention, but actually built it with trappers in mind and for those working on large logging operations, originally naming it the Ski-Dog.
But when Timberland Machines branch manager and marketing genius Mr. Robert Bottoms watched his then 20-year-old salesman Paul Crane driving down the unpaved Main Street of Valcourt, Quebec, on a prototype only a year earlier, he saw dollar signs.
Later in life Paul would share his personal collection at the Crane Snowmobile Museum.
Design Genius of Bombardier Ski-Doo Snowmobile
A machine so seemingly simple, we all still wonder why someone hadn’t thought of it years before.
Others most certainly have tried. Virgil White of Ossipee, NH, tried it by installing tracks on a Model “T” Ford. Polaris tried with their large, heavy, rear engine machines that worked okay until you got it stuck in deep snow.
Even later, after the enormous success of the Bombardier Ski-Doo design, companies like Raider and Manta tried to convince us that a twin track machine one could sit in like a sports car, was better. Or how about the Bolens where you sat on a seat resembling an ironing board on skis attached to what looked like a small bulldozer.
So many have tried to re-invent that original snowmobile design but failed. After years of trial and error, still today, every modern snowmobile, although drastically improved upon with high-tech long travel suspensions, big ultra-efficient engines and such, it all comes down to this: A one-piece chassis, two skis in front suspended on springs and steered with handlebars, the engine is in front of the driver, who sits on a seat over the track, with their feet planted on two running boards. A design so simple, so perfect, but needing a genius to build.
First Modern Snowmobile in United States
The sport of snowmobiling has come a long way since that little wooden crate first entered the town of Lancaster, New Hampshire, 60 years ago. It’s now a billion-dollar industry generating millions each winter to the economies of the states in the snowbelt.
Yes folks, December 4, 2019, will come and go. You may not read about it in any of the major snowmobile magazines or newspapers, so I’m telling you.
I’m telling you that your tiny town of Lancaster NH made history by being the very first place in the entire United States of America to introduce that little yellow Ski-Doo which changed the face of winter forever.
Now you know and I guess that’ll have to be enough.
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