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3/14/2011-Hetteen, ‘grandfather of snowmobiling,’ remembered

March 14, 2011
Filed under Features

Edgar Hetteen, the founder of Arctic Cat and co-founder of Polaris, was remembered by the industry after his recent death.
Hetteen, who died Feb. 12 at the age of 90, was hailed as the “grandfather of snowmobiling.”
“Edgar did more than just make tracks,” Roger Skime, vice president of engineering at Arctic Cat, said in a press release. “He broke a trail.
“From the frozen farmlands of Northwest Minnesota to every state, province and country that has snow. Along the way he built a company, nurtured an industry and shaped the culture of winter recreation with an unbridled optimism that made the sport what it is today, and will be tomorrow.”
A promoter
In 1954, Hetteen, along with his younger brother Allan and brother-in-law David Johnson, formed a manufacturing company in Roseau, Minn. The company produced its first snowmobile in 1956, a concept that Hetteen initially scoffed at.
But he quickly and wholeheartedly embraced the snowmobile, and soon became one of its greatest promoters. His flair for adventure and promotion led him on an unprecedented 1,200-mile snowmobile trip across Alaska in 1960, which brought national exposure to a fledgling sport despite unanticipated derision “back home.”
Undeterred, Hetteen founded Polar Manufacturing in Thief River Falls in 1961, where he began producing snowmobiles that reflected his dreams. One year later, he changed the company name to Arctic Cat, and began a series of innovations that transformed hulking snow “machines” into small, playful snowmobiles.
“Edgar focused on the ‘mobile’ aspect of snowmobiles,” said Skime. “At the time, few had any idea where the sport would go, but Edgar had a unique vision. He could imagine the possibilities, especially the social relationships. Perhaps his greatest insight was that snowmobiles were a means for people to recreate together.”
Later Years
After selling Arctic Cat in 1965, Hetteen started May Corp., a powered wheelchair company, and co-founded ASV, a rubber-tracked equipment company. He retired in 2005.
Hetteen is survived by his wife, Hannah, and a daughter. PSB

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