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Northern Minnesota Plays A Vital Role In Snowmobile History; Watch The Sleds Come Alive During The Benna Ford Roush Superior Watercross Shootout, August 16 & 17

Nathan Allred

It probably should come as now surprise that northern Minnesota plays an important role in the origination and development of what’s come to be identified as the modern snowmobile.  In fact, two of the major players in the industry are still headquartered in our neck of the woods.

Although there were earlier experimental craft that had an engine and were fitted with slides or tracks, it;’s commonly agreed that the modern snowmobile started in Roseau, Minnesota on 1955 when David Johnson, Alan and Edgar Heteen – partners in a farm equipment business called Polaris Industries – pooled their thoughts and money together to introduce the first snowmobile.  The sleds caught on in the land where winter can last 9 months or more and soon they turned their back to farm equipment for the most part and focused their energies on snowmobiles.

Like any business or industry, competitors were sure to follow.  Polaris’ main competitor came from inside their company when Edgar Hetteen left in 1960 to form his own snowmobile shop – called Arctic Cat.  Arctic Cat was headquartered in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and was very profitable.  Although the company filed bankruptcy in 1982, they persevered and made it through that financial back-step to rebound as a robust business.

With all the fun that people were having with snowmobiles in the winter months on snow, it was only a matter of time before they figured out how to have some fun with them in the summer as well.  That’s how  snowmobile skipping or watercross came to be.  The first event was held in Grantsburg, Wisconsin in 1977 and the International Watercross Association hasn’t looked back!  The sport continues to be more popular than ever.

You have the chance to witness watercross for yourself in August, as we welcome the Benna Ford Roush Superior Watercross Shootout comes to Barkers Island Festival Park in Superior, Wisconsin on August 16 and 17, 2014.

Some source material came from Wikipedia, the Minnesota Historical Society,and from the official IWA website.


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