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The Evolution of Snowcat Vehicles: A Brief History

Snowcat vehicles have been used for over 75 years as a means of transportation in snowy and mountainous regions. They are specially designed vehicles that are capable of navigating through deep snow and steep terrain. They have evolved significantly over the years, from simple vehicles with limited capabilities to sophisticated machines that are used for a variety of applications. In this article, we will explore the evolution of snowcat vehicles and how they have become an integral part of winter travel and recreation.

Early Years of Snowcat Vehicles

The earliest snowcat vehicles were developed in the 1930s and 1940s and were primarily used for snow grooming and transportation of goods and people in snowy regions. These vehicles were usually tracked, and their top speeds were limited to around 15 miles per hour. They were heavy and cumbersome, making them difficult to maneuver on steep terrain. However, these vehicles became the forefathers of some of today’s most advanced snow vehicles.

Tucker Sno-Cat Corp at Crater Lake
Tucker Sno-Cat Corp at Crater Lake, 1949

Through the 1950s-1970s Snow Vehicles Evolved Rapidly

During the 1950s and 1960s, snowcat technology began to evolve rapidly. The development of hydraulic systems and engines with higher horsepower made snowcats more powerful and easier to control. These advancements allowed for faster speeds, improved handling, and increased payloads. Snowcats were used for a variety of applications, including snow grooming, search and rescue, and transportation of people and equipment in mountainous regions.

In 1957, a party led by two daring adventurers, Vivian Fuches and Sir Edmund Hillary, set out to attempt the first trip across Antarctica, crossing the South Pole. The team used a variety of tracked snow vehicles, including a Tucker Snow-Cat that was modified to endure the grueling conditions. The expedition crossed the Antarctic in 99 days, making the team the third group to ever make it to the South Pole and the first to do so by motorized vehicles.

One of the Snowcat vehicles found itself in quite a dilemma during the journey. Although it delayed the expedition by about a day, the team was able to rescue the Snowcat.

Snowcat on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) 1958
Snowcat on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) 1958

It was also in the 1950s that Lars Larsson of Sweden developed the original Aktiv Fishcher Snow Trac tracked vehicle to transport him and his brother on winter fishing trips and to a shared remote cabin. The first Snow Trac used a Volkswagen engine and a specially designed steering system that Larsson named “Variator.” It was manufactured from 1957 to 1981. The vehicle operated in a similar manner as a small car. It is after this design that we reimagined the modern-day TFT - Sno Trac.

Aktiv Snow Trac used as an Emergency Snow Vehicle

The 1980s-2000s Made Snowcats More Efficient and Reliable

The 1980s brought significant improvements in snowcat technology, with the introduction of computerized control systems, advanced hydraulics, and better suspension systems. These advancements made snowcats more efficient, reliable, and capable of operating in a wider range of conditions. Snowcats became more common in the ski industry, where they were used for grooming slopes and transporting skiers to remote locations.

In the 1990s, snowcat technology continued to evolve, with the introduction of lightweight materials, such as aluminum, and more powerful engines. These advancements allowed for faster speeds and increased payloads. Snowcats were used for a variety of applications, including search and rescue, exploration, and transporting people and equipment in extreme conditions.

Modern Snowcats Harnessing Technology

Today, snowcat technology has advanced significantly, with a focus on environmental sustainability and reducing the impact of snowcats on the environment. Modern snowcats are designed to be more fuel-efficient, emit fewer emissions, and produce less noise. They are often equipped with cutting-edge technology, including GPS systems, high-tech communication systems, and advanced safety features.

Snowcats are now widely used in the ski industry for snow grooming, transportation of skiers and equipment, and avalanche control. They are also used for search and rescue, exploration, and transportation in extreme environments. However, their uses have abundant possibilities as a multitude of industries have found snowcat vehicles to be valuable for their businesses, such as large ranches, oil companies, surveyors, utility companies, and winter activity tour companies.

The present-day Sno Trac is the latest in snowcat vehicle technology. It is a new and improved version of the 1950’s Aktiv Snow Trac. TFT- Sno Trac, LLC was formed in April 2013 to develop and manufacture a new version of the Snow Trac that utilizes modern components and newer manufacturing processes, resulting in “Sno Trac”. Designed to be light on its feet and small enough to tow on a standard-sized vehicle trailer, Sno Trac is easy to transport to wherever the snow is. This vehicle uses state-of-the-art, emissions-compliant technology to allow its driver to dominate the snow for both recreational and professional purposes.

Sno Trac snowcat vehicle made in USA
Sno Trac Army Green

Sno Trac manufactured in Bonners Ferry, Idaho USA
Sno Trac Manufactured in Bonners Ferry, Idaho USA


The evolution of snowcat vehicles has been remarkable over the past 75 years. From primitive machines that were used for snow grooming and transportation, to sophisticated vehicles that are used for a wide range of applications, snowcats have come a long way. With the development of advanced technology, snowcats have become more efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly. They continue to play an essential role in winter travel, recreation, and working in winter conditions, and their versatility and capability make them indispensable in extreme environments.

Learn more about Sno Trac snowcat vehicles- made in the USA!



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