In December 1955, innovative thinking led to the creation of Polaris snowmobile No. 1 and the start of the company’s mastery over winter travel. And in the 65 years since No. 1 first chugged across a snowy field in Roseau, Minnesota, innovation and a passion for the ride have fueled the incredible – and ongoing – evolution of Polaris snowmobiles.
Polaris employees were, as they still are, avid outdoors enthusiasts. Many of them had hunting camps in the woods northeast of town, near or beyond the Canadian border. Reaching those camps in winter was exhausting, as it required hours of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
In pursuit of more convenient access to those remote cabins, the Polaris employees brainstormed and created that first Polaris snowmobile. It was powered by a 9-hp Briggs & Stratton engine and had pieces of Chevrolet bumpers as skis. In early January 1956, it made its maiden run across the Roseau snow. Yes, it worked, but the Polaris crew was already laser-focused on how to make an even better snowmobile.
That passionate pursuit of innovation and ever-improving reliability and performance became part of the Polaris DNA. You’ll find it in every Polaris engineer helping to develop sleds like today’s – and tomorrow’s – RUSH, INDY, and RMK models.
It’s been an amazing 60-plus-year ride, and you can trust it will keep getting even better!
A pioneer in the snowmobile industry, Polaris named its early snowmobiles Sno-Travelers. A classic Sno-Traveler had a rear traction platform hosting the engine and track, and a boat-hull front section with skis. In the earliest days of production, Polaris purchased utility engines off the shelf at the downtown Roseau hardware store.
Seen through today’s lens of technology, a Sno-Traveler can look bulky, heavy and immobile. But they actually provided reliable flotation, and the engines (available in a wide range of sizes) could deliver outstanding power.
Originally viewed as utility machines, snowmobiles provided such great mobility that they also delivered pure recreational appeal. In 1960 Polaris introduced Sno-Travelers called “Sportslines.” They were significantly smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable. Best suited for just one rider, they expanded the free-wheeling fun a snowmobiler could experience on winter terrain.
The original Polaris founders never claimed to have invented the snowmobile, but they were proud of their major role in developing and promoting snowmobiles as recreational vehicles.
Leaf Spring Snowmobiles
Polaris snowmobiles evolved dramatically starting in the early 1960s as the interest in front-engined sleds increased. With the engine housed under the hood, the rear of the sled got lighter, which accommodated greatly enhanced handling, especially with the development of leaf-spring front suspensions and more effective skis.
Polaris revolutionized recreational riding starting with the 1965 Mustang, a sporty, front-engined sled that was pure fun. It quickly became a winning race sled as well, helping to establish the Polaris racing legacy.
In 1966, Polaris introduced an even smaller and sportier leaf-spring model, the Colt, which further expanded snowmobiling’s recreational – and race-winning – appeal. Both the Mustang and Colt remained popular and in production for a decade.
Throughout the 1970s Polaris produced a series of TX models that firmly established Polaris as the sport’s premier performance brand. The powerful engines of several classic TX models protruded up through the sleds’ hoods, and in the mid- to late-1970s, Polaris TX snowmobiles dominated several forms of racing.
The racing program also used TX sleds to develop the greatest innovation in snowmobile history: Polaris Independent Front Suspension.
Polaris wasn’t the first brand to market snowmobiles with Independent Front Suspension (IFS), but the original Polaris IFS was a game-changing, superior version of this smooth-handling front end design. Thus, Polaris quickly became known as the brand for premium ride and handling, as well as outstanding power.
The 1980 Polaris TX-L Indy was the first production model with IFS. The front end had been developed in conjunction with the brand’s racing program, and it carried racers on the legendary Midnight Blue Express to many a victory.
With the brand’s dominance in ride and handling, it’s fitting that Polaris IFS model names have long used the term “Indy.” These included the Indy Cross Country, Indy Trail, and Indy models identified by engine sizes such as 600, 650, 400, 440, and the legendary, best-selling Indy 500.
Polaris in model year 1991 was the first snowmobile brand to exclusively offer IFS sleds, as that lineup included no leaf-spring models. Polaris IFS has continued to evolve and improve, managing bumps better and better, and delivering ever-improving handling.
Polaris Snowmobiles Today
In the past decade, Polaris has once again revolutionized snowmobile technology – and dramatically enhanced ride and handling. For 2010, Polaris introduced the PRO-RIDE progressive rate rear suspension on RUSH® models. Complementing the refined Polaris IFS, this rear suspension managed uneven terrain better than any design ever.
Then, in 2015, came the incredible AXYS® Chassis, with Rider Balanced® Control, unrivaled acceleration, and Rider-Centric Comfort. This progressive design made a rider one with the sled, and provided the most responsive and intuitive handling, and the greatest comfort on every type of terrain.
Polaris models with purpose-built versions of the AXYS platform are now available in several categories – for every type of rider. And they are powered by a variety of Polaris engines, including the Polaris 850 Patriot™. Along with providing recreational riders with countless great riding memories, these sleds carry Polaris racers to victory in every racing discipline.
Polaris snowmobile developers are passionate riders. And like the original Polaris employees when they watched sled No. 1 make its maiden run, they’re always seeking innovative ways to make the Polaris ride even better.