The Beginning, 1959-1965
Joseph-Armand Bombardier devoted his entire life to looking for mechanical designs that would conquer the elements in his part of the world. In Valcourt, Quebec, Canada, that meant about five months of often incredibly deep snow. As a talented, young mechanic, Bombardier opened a garage in Valcourt in 1926. He made his living repairing tractors and automobiles but for nearly a decade he tinkered with various single and two-passenger snowmobile designs. Had he continued working on the smaller machines, the Ski-Doo as we came to know it may have evolved earlier.
In January of 1934, Armand and his wife Yvonne’s 2-year-old son developed acute appendicitis. The nearest hospital was a little over 20 miles (mi) away and all roads were snowed in. An unfinished snowmobile sat in Armand’s garage as his young son passed away, unable to get to medical treatment and inaccessible to doctors who might have treated him. The tragic loss of his son helped focus Armand on finding a solution to the winter isolation of the snow belt. He redirected his efforts, setting aside the one- and two-passenger machine in favor of designs that could transport several passengers. The Ski-Doo would have to wait!
Bombardier developed his rubber-covered drive sprocket design in 1935, leading to his development of many successful track drive systems and to his financial success. The sprocket was so instrumental in the success of his vehicles, it would become part of the Bombardier Snowmobile logo and is still seen in Bombardier, Inc.’s logo.
Bombardier developed and produced many different designs between 1935 and 1958, all track-driven and designed for use in soft terrain and snow, but all were quite large vehicles.
Bombardier wanted to develop a fast, lightweight snowmobile that could carry one or two people, and the first Bombardier snowmobile went on sale in 1959. The public soon discovered that these fast vehicles that could zoom over snow were a lot of fun. Suddenly a new winter sport was born, and it was centered in Quebec.