The snowmobile we know today is the culmination of many years of development by multiple inventors and companies. Many applications ranging from military to recreation to transportation each had an effect on how the designs progressed. Snowmobiles are an amazing feat of engineering; but how do they actually work?

With the development of automobiles, people became anxious for easier and faster travel. There was a big problem in the snow, however. The wheels of a car were easily stuck, creating the necessity for something more practical. The military had already used tracks to improve mobility off road, and it was easily adapted to smaller vehicles.

The track on a snowmobile has a much greater surface area than a cars wheels. Like a snowshoe, the weight is distributed more evenly across the entire area so the heavy snowmobile won't sink, even in soft snow.

The skis on a snowmobile play an important role in weight distribution as well. Their primary purpose is steering, however. As you turn the handlebars, the skis turn as well, directing the entire sled in that direction. Wider skis create more stability in deeper and softer snow, while narrow skis make sharper turns more easy.

Snowmobile shocks are also extremely important to your ride. Like a mountain bike, the shocks smooth out an otherwise bumpy ride, making it not only more comfortable, but easier to control as well.

Snowmobiles are powered by small engines, generally four stroke for larger machines and two stroke for small. The engine powers a track drive system, turning gears, which in turn rotate the track itself. There is also a clutch system, with a primary and secondary clutch.

It's critical to understand at least the basics of snowmobile operation before doing any long rides. If problems come up, it makes a huge difference if you can pinpoint the source. Even if you don't know how to repair the sled, having an idea of what the problem is can at least help you avoid making it worse until you can get it to a professional.