On remote Oak Island in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, a yellow-painted Bombardier snow bus rumbles its way across portions of frozen Lake of the Woods, ferrying anglers out to ice houses for a day of trying to lure one of the storied 50-inch walleyes, Muskies or Northern fish thought to be abundant in these waters. After all, this is said to be one of the best fishing spots in North America.
The Bombardier snow bus or “bomber,” as locals commonly call it, is named for a Canadian mechanical engineer who invented one of the first commercially viable snowmobiles. Joseph-Armand Bombardier wanted to create a multi-person vehicle that could move easily in the snow and to improve living conditions for people like himself who called remote Quebec home.
Tragically, Bombardier’s own son died after his appendix burst and the family was unable to reach the nearest hospital in time because heavy snowfall had blocked the roads from their small village. That tragedy provided further motivation for Bombardier to perfect his invention.
The new overland snow vehicle would soon be used by postal workers, doctors, clergy, the military and others. But years later, sales declined after crews in Canada started to regularly clear rural roads. Bombardier then focused on the snowmobile market, launching the Ski-Doo in 1959.
This story was published March 25, 2020.
Videographer: Matt Ehling
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