to 1964: The Ski-Doo®2 snowmobile
At the close of the 1950s, the Valcourt company
is very successful, as shown by its sales of $3.5 million and profits of
$850 000 in 1958-59. The coming few years will launch Joseph-Armand
Bombardier's greatest invention, the recreational snowmobile, marketed under
the name Ski-Doo2. This invention will fulfill Joseph-Armand's boyhood dream
and have a profound impact on the success and future of L'Auto-Neige
A "miniature" snowmobile
Joseph-Armand's ability to finally develop the light, individual vehicle he
had always dreamed of was made possible by the advent of lighter motors, and
especially by the revolutionary continuous track designed and patented by
his son Germain at the Kingsbury experimental site.
At the end of 1958, working with close collaborators, Joseph-Armand creates
the prototype for a "miniature" snowmobile. The April 1959 thaw meant the
end of Joseph-Armand's Valcourt trials and a chance to take the machine
for a visit with his friend Maurice Ouimet, a Marie-Immaculée oblate and
missionary among the Ojibwa peoples of Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario.
Fascinated by the little vehicle, the natives try it almost non-stop for
three days. Joseph-Armand is satisfied with the results, gives the vehicle
to Father Ouimet as a gift, and returns to Valcourt to complete the project.
Production and marketing
Mass production of the Ski-Doo2 snowmobile begins in the autumn of 1959. It
is immediately welcomed by missionaries, trappers, prospectors, surveyors,
and other people who need to travel over snow in isolated regions. But the
little $900 machine also finds a keen new clientele in sports and outdoor
recreation lovers, who eventually become the reason for the snowmobile's
immense popularity in the years to come.
After a modest start, demand increases from year to year as promotion and
the sales network expand. In 1959-60, 225 units are produced; 250 in
1960-61, then 1200 in 1961-62, 2500 in 1962-63 and 8352 in 1963-64
requiring numerous expansions to the Valcourt facilities.
Always concerned with self-sufficiency, in 1963 Joseph-Armand Bombardier
establishes his company's second subsidiary, Roski Ltd., in Roxton Falls
near Valcourt, for the manufacture of fibreglass parts required for the
The dream is interrupted
Joseph-Armand Bombardier would only see the earliest signs of the phenomenal
popularity of his snowmobile. His death on February 18, 1964 at the age of
56 ends a full and happy life. With his departure, the world loses an
ingenious inventor and exceptional entrepreneur. In a moving letter to his
children, he encourages them to pursue his work. The success of Bombardier
Inc. and the humanitarian and social mission fulfilled by the J. Armand
Bombardier Foundation show he had every reason to have confidence in them.
A model citizen
Success in no way diminishes Joseph-Armand Bombardier's social
responsibility and attachment to his hometown. He recruits his workforce in
Valcourt and respects the pace of life in the region, such as by allowing
farmers to work their fields in the summer and take factory shifts in the
winter. He also demands the best of himself and his employees, increasing
their pride and sense of belonging.
||Joseph-Armand takes an active part in the community life of Valcourt. He
serves as municipal councillor, founds council 3207 of the Valcourt Knights
of Columbus, and earns the title Knight of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand for his
support of Church endeavours.
Passionate about music, he is a member of the parish choir, and enjoys many
happy moments singing with his children whom he accompanies on the piano.
His love of music leads him to promote and finance the launch of an
harmony in Valcourt, and his concern for education leads him to help and
encourage youth to pursue their studies.
Knight of Columbus
Despite his need for solitude to dream, cogitate, design, invent, develop,
and test, Joseph-Armand Bombardier always welcomes family, friends,
employees, and fellow citizens who need a sympathetic ear, a helping hand,
support, or advice.
Hunting and fishing are his ways of enjoying the natural world, which he
loves and visits often while testing vehicles. He also enjoys flying, and
buys a plane and learns to pilot it maybe even dreaming of one day
exploring air transport.
A prototype, 1957
The first Ski-Doo2 model snowmobile,
marketed in 1959-1960, is equipped with wood skis and a helical
spring suspension. It includes an all-rubber track and a centrifugal
clutch made of only six moving parts. Driven by a four-stroke Kohler
engine, its maximum speed is 40 kilometres per hour.
1960 sales brochure
Patent for the
Joseph-Armand piloting his plane