CBC Digital Archives

Beyond the snowmobile

Joseph-Armand Bombardier was a shy, determined mechanic who dreamed of building a vehicle that could "float on snow". In 1937 the first snowmobile rolled out of his small repair shop in Valcourt, Que. and a legendary company was born. Over the years, Bombardier continued to perfect his dream and found that winter-bound Canadians were eager to come along for the ride. Bombardier changed the way we travel over snow and he established a Canadian manufacturing giant along the way.

By 1970 Bombardier is a thriving company built on the back of the snowmobile. The recreational snowmobile accounts for 90 per cent of Bombardier's revenues. But clouds are beginning to gather over Valcourt, Que. The snowmobile frenzy of the 1960s is waning. North America is hit by an energy crisis and subsequent economic downturn. In the first four years of the 1970s, Bombardier sales plummet from 226,000 to 60,000 snowmobiles.

Company president Laurent Beaudoin, who rode the Ski-Doo to success, realizes Bombardier must diversify. As luck would have it, the city of Montreal asks companies to bid on the construction of 400 subway cars to help prepare for the upcoming Montreal Olympics. Bombardier wins the contract and enters the mass transportation market. From there, Bombardier's reliance on the snowmobile changes.

The Ski-Doo plays a very minor role in Bombardier's phenomenal business success in the 1980s and 1990s. The company is producing subway cars, rail passenger cars and airplanes instead. By 2002 Ski-Doo sales account for a small part of the company's revenue. It battles Polaris for top spot in the snowmobile market.
•By the mid-1970s, only six out of 100 snowmobile manufacturers survived the downturn.
•The Bombardier corporate logo is dominated by the image of a sprocket to honour J. Armand Bombardier's original invention.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 6, 1980
Host: Knowlton Nash
Duration: 0:27

Last updated: January 25, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Bombardier: The Snowmobile Legacy

Joseph-Armand Bombardier was a shy, determined mechanic who dreamed of building a vehicle that...

2003: Bombardier sells off historic Ski-Doo l...

Bombardier's decision to cut its recreational division shocks the industry.

Bombardier cuts its roots

Bombardier makes the tough decision to sell the Ski-Doo line.

Snowmobile skipping

Snow machine enthusiasts find new ways to have fun.

The Bombardier NEV

The Bombardier Company launches its new electric car called, the Neighbourhood Electric Vehicl...

Bombardier buys Learjet Corp.

The snowmobile giant expands.