Vintage 'snowbugs' still rule parts of Canada's north

Originally manufactured in the 1940s and '50s, Bombardier's early attempts at the modern snowmobile, known by many simply as "snowbugs," are still heavily used across Canada's North.

From school bus to recreational vehicle, decades-old 'snowbugs' roll on across Canada's North

The "Snow Bug", originally manufactured by Bombardier, is a popular form or transportation for both business and pleasure in many communities across Canada's north. 1:03

All across the frozen tundra of Northern Canada, giant "snowbugs" continue to roam the land. Of course these bugs don't have legs and antennae — instead they are outfitted with tracks and skis.
Rarely seen in the South, snowbugs have long been a common sight in Canada's North. A cross between a van and a snowmobile, "bugs" provide a warm comfortable commute to places you just can't reach by road.

Mervin Aubichon hits the gas as his 1956 Bombardier flies across Churchill Lake, near the town of Buffalo Narrows, in northern Saskatchewan. Despite the fact that Aubichon's snowbug is 60 years old, it is still a workhorse.

Mervin Aubichon washes the wind shield of his 1956 Bombardier on Churchill Lake in northern Saskatchewan. (Erin Collins/CBC)

"I use it for commercial fishing and freighting, generally for work and a little bit of recreation."

Snowbugs began rolling off Bombardier's assembly line in the 1940s and are still sought after today, according to Aubichon.

"Originally they were used as school buses for farm kids — that is the little history that I got about it."

Aubichon says one of the things that make the machines so popular is that they are relatively simple to repair. 

"Pretty simple, they are just a standard transmission and a Dodge 318 powers them — they can go through the snow a lot easier and you can load quite a bit of stuff in them."

Donald Morin shows off one of his two snowbugs at his shop on the outskirts of Buffalo Narrows. Neither of Morin's bugs are running yet but he is confident he will be able to bring the antique machines back to life.

Donald Morin is refurbishing two 'snowbugs,' including this 1957 Bombardier he purchased in northern Alberta. Machines in good shape can travel at speeds of around 48 km/h. (Erin Collins/CBC)

"There is not very much to them except for the track and drive train so with a little bit of welding you can have yourself one of these all-terrain vehicles."

Morin says he has some big plans for his bugs once they are up and running. 

"These ones we are going to re-build and make them a little more modern and use them for some tourism up here in Buffalo Narrows."

Morin says the unique winter rides are so popular in Buffalo Narrows that it just might be the snowbug capital of the world.