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Surprising Facts About Snowcats

Snowcats are powerful, versatile machines that can trek through the toughest winter terrain, clear impressive paths through feet of snow, and make winter sports safe and enjoyable.

Businesses that thrive on winter tourism typically find they need snowcats on hand. Snow groomers, mountain explorers, search and rescue teams, and other brave travelers can be safe and comfortable while the snowcat does all the work.

Snowcats are well known for their ability to create trails, clear pathways, and traverse harsh terrain, but the snowcat is more than it seems. In fact, many components come together to demonstrate just how amazing this piece of machinery is. If you think you know all there is to know about snowcats, you’ll be surprised to learn these surprising facts.

Snowcats Originated in the Antarctic

Sgerbic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before snowcat was a name in itself, the origins of these powerful machines date back to an Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition that took place from 1910-1913. The original tracked snow equipment was designed by the expedition’s captain and engineer, Captain Scott and Engineer Skelton. Their eventual model was built by the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company. Years later, in 1955, the modern snowcat entered the Antarctic with the Fuchs and Hilary Transantartic Expedition. Oregon’s own Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation produced all four snowcats used on the expedition.

Snowcats Have Gone by Many Different Names

As you may have guessed, the snowcat name was first established in 1946 by Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation. In the early days, their snowcats dominated the market, having little to no competition. By the 1960s, however, other manufacturers attempted to reach the same level of success. Try as they would, snowcat became a household name and would be used to describe multiple makes and models of similar vehicles. Tucker Sno-Cat was one of the most well-known early manufacturers of these powerful machines and continues to make state-of-the-art snow terrain vehicles to this day.

Other companies would come to make a name for themselves in the snowcat business. A Swedish company, Activ, would manufacture a vehicle called the Snow Trac beginning in the 1950s, which would become instrumental in the Cold War. It also proved highly useful for research organizations located throughout Antarctica.  In 1982, the assembly of these snowcats ceased, and over 1,000 were imported to the United States and Canada. Over 2200 of these machines were ever produced, so while they can still be found in private use, few remain in the commercial world.

Snowcats have historically been used to groom snow and provide transportation of goods and people in rough terrain. This includes polar expeditions, logging in marsh areas, medical evacuations, and seismic studies in the wild.

There Are Snowcats in Pop Culture

Snowcats have appeared in movies and TV shows for decades. When a wintery adventure is in order, a snowcat is often the highlighted vehicle for getting the show’s stars where they need to be. Perhaps most notably, a Thiokol Spryte and a Snow Trac were featured in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, with Jack Torrance and Scatman Carothers both driving the vehicle. Wendy Torrance makes her final escape in a snowcat. Space series Lost in Space and Battlestar Galactica also used modified Thiokol models to serve as the Chariot and Snow Ram vehicles, respectively.

Snow Trac featured The Shining
M. Schneider, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Snowcats Can Be Eco-Friendly

One little-known fact about snowcats is the commitment to ongoing improvements and alterations that allow the snowcat machine to be more eco-friendly. When it comes to the machine itself, newer models have been carefully designed to require less gas to power and move the vehicle. This reduces the number of harmful greenhouse gasses entering the atmosphere without sacrificing the quality of workmanship that has come to be expected of this vehicle.

The environmental benefits created by the snowcat go beyond the machine itself. Using this machine also helps to reduce the environmental footprint of ski resorts and other comparable industries. Snowcats provide a lot of power without consuming much fuel. They can easily clear trails and pathways to keep guests in designated areas. They can also be used to transport large groups of people at one time, minimizing constant trips up and down slopes and mountain passages.

Snowcats Aren’t Just for Moving Snow

One of the most surprising facts about snowcats is just how versatile this tracked vehicle can be. There are numerous non-skiing industries that can benefit from the use of a snowcat. Some of these popular yet unexpected uses can inspire you to lease your own snowcat.

Ski Lift

Skiing continues to be one of the most popular winter activities. It is fun for all ages, there are options for all skill levels, and it’s a great way to get out in the snow and have some fun. A snowcat is commonly associated with creating trails to enjoy, but that is only one aspect of the many things this machine can do. Ski lifts may be a highlight of major ski resorts, but a snowcat can bring a whole new meaning to ski lifts.

With traditional lifts, you still need to do a lot of leg work to make your way to the lift. In addition, some of the best backcountry runs are often not served by ski lifts. In either situation, a snowcat is the answer. A snowcat can store extra gear and supplies and can comfortably accommodate groups of skiers as they travel to the top of the run. You’ll save them time and energy better spent hitting the fresh powder, and you can go to areas that are off the beaten path.

Ice Breaking

Snowcats offer much more than the powerful machine itself. They also have a wide range of accessories to help perform the job you need. Believe it or not, you can place specialized blades on a snowcat that provide the means to easily bust through frozen rivers and lakes. This can help prevent flooding in areas where deep layers of fice create water buildup. Outside of commercial use, this can be beneficial for individuals who live or travel to areas that are susceptible to harsh winter conditions.

Rescue Vehicles

Emergencies in the winter can be especially dangerous. The elements are harsh and unforgiving, visibility can be minimal, areas can get snowed in, the temperatures can drop quickly, and the night comes fast. As a result, speed is key when it comes to significantly impacting the outcome of any emergency situation. That is where a snowcat comes in. A snowcat has next-level traction abilities that allow it to traverse snow and ice.

It is powerful but maneuverable, allowing it to get around debris and across uneven or uncleared terrain. The load capacity also makes it easy to transport people, medical supplies, and any other necessary equipment. For search and rescue efforts in challenging terrain, including mountains, marches, avalanche areas, flooded rivers, or anything in between, a snowcat can get the job done.

Catering Vehicle

Snowcats mean business and can actually serve as the perfect food truck option for wintery weather. While they aren’t yet sophisticated enough to add in a grill and fryer, they can provide a means for a catering business looking to thrive beyond the summer months. A snowcat can be converted into a mobile catering vehicle, capable of delivering hot meals to customers whether they’re in remote cabins, at the top of a ski run, or even at a winter festival. You won’t have to worry about the cold air ruining your food, and you’ll be able to get through the worst winter weather with confidence.

Film and Photography

Both of these industries are driven to produce art that is both awe-inspiring and new. For individuals in the film industry, finding an untouched, winter-perfect landscape can be an amazing backdrop for any genre of film. You could fly in drones, but that limits you to aerial shots without much action.

Use a snowcat for Film and Photography

You could also potentially use a helicopter, but that can get expensive quickly, and space could be limited. For many, the best solution is to use a snowcat, which can take you to the most breathtaking locations with ease. It also has the space to accommodate your crew as well as your equipment.

For those in the photography business, snowcats have a ton of potential. From mountain landscapes to forested, snow-covered areas, you will have all the inspiration you need for nature photographs. In a snowcat, you can easily transport a photographer, their equipment, and even individuals who want portraits done. Can you imagine the wedding pictures you could capture?

Exploration Vehicle

For those that want to go beyond the well-traversed paths and into a more remote location, a snowcat can be the ideal exploration vehicle. When it comes to tackling the great unknown, detailed preparation is key. You need a mode of transportation that is powerful, reliable, and can accommodate your gear and supplies. If you are boldly going into the winter landscape, a snowcat is the best way to do so safely and comfortably.

Party Bus

Yes, you read that correctly: a snowcat can be the perfect party bus for winter fun. In the winter, activities can feel limited to what is close and comfortable. With a snowcat, you can travel around resorts, ice rinks, and everywhere in between, regardless of the weather outside. A snowcat can keep you and your friends comfortable and safe as you enjoy your adventures.

Suggested Reading: Creative Uses for Snowcats

There’s a Whole World of Custom Snowcats

When it comes to versatility, the snowcat is in a category all its own. A trend growing in popularity is the complete customization of a snowcat for specific needs and personal tastes. In fact, more businesses are opting to utilize the snowcat for much more than just clearing parking lots and creating ski routes.

Comfort is in, and many resorts are joining in on the customization game. The most popular customizations are tailored toward creating a comfortable cabin ride for individuals and groups alike. These customizations can include well-padded seating, charge ports, extra storage, underlighting as well as overlighting, custom speakers and sound systems, and anything in between. The ability to customize a snowcat demonstrates that it is more than just business; it is also the perfect machine for fun.

You can even change the appearance of a snowcat to help attract people to your business or service. A well-known example is a man in Colorado who turned his snowcat into the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. This helped bring awareness to his brand, as well as bring smiles to guests and members of his community.

Lease a Snowcat

You may have already had an idea that a snowcat is a great machine for a ski resort, but the capabilities go far beyond moving and grooming snow. A snowcat is actually the perfect work vehicle for search and rescue, exploration, ski lifting, and ice breaking. It is also the ideal pleasure vehicle for photographers, filmmakers, caterers, and those looking for a safe and comfortable way to live it up.

Whether you have your own stories to tell or you want to experience the power and versatility for yourself, there are plenty of options when it comes to leasing your own snowcat vehicle. Whether you need it for work or pleasure, the snowcat is the optimal all-terrain vehicle for your needs. For more information about our snowcat lease options, contact Ski Cat Company.