What is the Purpose of Snowmobiles? [Video]

Snowmobiles are used for various purposes, which can be divided into three main categories:

  • Recreational use (riding on and off-trail, touring, ice fishing, etc.)
  • Racing (Snocross, Cross-Country racing, drag races, etc.)
  • Utilitarian purposes (farming, logging, transporting professionals, etc.)

If you want to find out more about the various ways snowmobiles are used, you are in the right place. We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know into this post!

What is the Purpose of Snowmobiles?

Recreational Use

There are no less than 1.1 million registered snowmobiles in the U.S. and more than 600,000 in Canada. Although these machines were initially intended for utility purposes, today 80 percent of snowmobiles are used for recreation.

When it comes to snowmobiling, the most common recreational activities are as follows:

  • Trail riding
  • Touring
  • “Boondocking” (riding in the backcountry)
  • Mixed-use (both trail and off-trail riding)
  • Ice fishing
  • “Snowmobile camping” (riding to cabins for overnight stays)
  • Transporting skiers/snowboarders
  • Collecting/restoring vintage sleds
  • Participation in snowmobile events and shows

It’s safe to say that most snowmobiles are still used for trail riding, which is the most convenient and safest way to enjoy a snowmobile.

There are numerous snowmobile associations and clubs in Canada and the U.S., which have established an extensive network of trails.

These groomed and marked trails go over private and public lands. Along these trails, you can typically find many snowmobile-friendly resorts, motels, restaurants, bars, and gas stations.

Moreover, since the trails are regularly groomed, riding on them requires fewer skills and less engine power. This is why certain trail snowmobiles are still available with even smaller, 550cc fan-cooled engines.

However, adrenaline junkies can choose from a wide variety of performance snowmobiles designed for the fastest top speed and acceleration.

For those who are looking for comfort over performance, manufacturers offer many great touring snowmobile models. As the name suggests, they are designed to cover long distances, even with a passenger.

Besides trail riding, snowmobiles are also commonly used for riding in the mountains. Today purpose-built mountain sleds feature a lightweight chassis and long tracks that offer adequate flotation even in deep snow.

Riding in the backcountry has become more and more popular, which means off-trail sleds are gaining in popularity.

But it’s good to know that, unlike trail riding, “boondocking” (riding in the backcountry) is an entirely different story. Handling a sled in the deep snow requires skills and a lot of muscle work, so it’s not for everyone.

One of the other fastest-growing segments in the snowmobile industry is the crossover segment. These sleds are designed for mixed-use so that they can run both on and off-trail.

Besides “fun riding,” snowmobiles can be used for specific purposes and like reaching ice fishing spots, mountain cabins, and for transporting skiers/snowboarders.

Last but not least, don’t forget that vintage sleds have become collectible items, and many snowmobile enthusiasts are looking for these outdated “barn find” machines.

Restoring these old vehicles is just as much fun as riding them and/or taking them to vintage shows!


Since the engines of snowmobiles have become more and more powerful over the years, today, snowmobiling is considered a sport rather than a simple winter pastime.

Therefore, besides general recreational uses, snowmobiles are commonly used for racing. From the widely popular Snocross and Cross-County championships to the extreme Iron Dogs, snowmobile competitions vary widely.

Utilitarian Purposes

In accordance with their original purpose, snowmobiles are also often used for practical purposes, the most common of which are the following:

  • Logging
  • Farming
  • Checking forest land
  • Towing broken snowmobiles
  • Towing heavy sleighs
  • Hauling/carrying heavy items and tools
  • Grooming smaller trails
  • Winter transportation of professionals (medical care, police, etc.)
  • Search and rescue missions
  • Expeditions

What’s more, even Eskimos use these versatile machines instead of dogsleds, while Laplanders also find them useful for herding reindeer.

Almost all major manufacturers offer utility snowmobiles that are specially designed for work purposes.

These heavy-duty machines feature a strong and durable chassis and parts are propelled by an extra-wide track that delivers excellent traction and floatation.

Related Questions About Snowmobiles

How has the Snowmobile Changed the World?

Snowmobiles have changed the world, especially in northern areas. Before the ‘40s traveling on snow was only possible on snowshoes, skis, and sleds towed by dogs or reindeer. As you might assume, these solutions were very slow and exhausting. But everything changed in 1937 when Joseph-Armand Bombardier launched its first commercially successful snowmobile, the B7. Since then, traveling on snow has been easier, faster, and much more convenient!

How has the Snowmobile Affected Society?

The invention of the snowmobile has affected society in many ways, but the most important were the following:

  • Rural residents in snow-covered areas became less isolated
  • Snowmobiles largely replaced reindeer and dogsleds
  • Search and rescue teams became faster and more efficient
  • A new form of winter recreation and a series of new winter sports were born
  • It made it possible for professionals to travel on snow (medical care, police, etc.)
  • Snowmobiles led to a boom in winter tourism
  • Several snowmobile clubs were established, creating an excellent opportunity for people to socialize
  • Snowmobiling has also made a significant economic impact

As reported by Snowmobile.org, the snowmobile industry has created more than 100,000 full-time jobs in North America alone. This has resulted in an economic boost of about $26 billion annually in the U.S. and $9.3 billion annually in Canada.

Who Uses Snowmobiles?

As you can see, snowmobiles are used for many different purposes. Therefore, snowmobiles are commonly used by:

  • Woodworkers
  • Farmers
  • Professionals (police, medical care, conservationists, etc.)
  • Search and rescue teams           
  • Ice fishermen
  • Racers
  • And, of course, average riders

Takeaways – What can Snowmobiles Be Used for?

As a rule of thumb, snowmobiles can be used for three purposes: work, recreation, and racing.

Although the first snowmobiles were intended for travel and utility purposes, today, most of these vehicles are used for winter recreation.

From touring to mountain riding, snowmobile enthusiasts can choose from many different riding styles and snowmobile models, not to mention the countless accessories like clothing and helmets.

Therefore, this activity has a noticeable impact on the economy as it generates many jobs, including production, sales, and other tourism-related businesses.

Because of this, it’s safe to say that snowmobiling has changed the world in many ways!


The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Britannica

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