Polaris, the major manufacturer of snowmobiles, ATVs, and motorcycles, was founded and is still headquartered in Roseau after more than 60 years. Today visitors can learn about the company’s history and diverse product line at its Polaris Experience Center.
Polaris is, of course, well known for its vast line of snowmobiles. It was the company to first launch such a vehicle, although if any area was likely to develop good transportation for snowy regions, Roseau was a logical choice. The very first snowmobile they developed was unfortunately destroyed in a fire, but the second one is on display.Amy C. Rea
There was considerable trial and error, research and development, involved from the very beginning.
Every iteration was designed to be an improvement on its predecessor, and then the new models faced their own sets of challenges, which in turn led to more innovation and ever-changing designs.
As the company gained prominence for its work, it began to branch out into other kinds of transport, including a line of race cars called Star Cars in the mid 1960s.
They were designed for a specific type of amateur racing, and were marketed as being especially valuable for snowmobile owners, as the Star Car could use a variety of engines, allowing Polaris snowmobile owners to use their engines year-round.
As the 1960s waned, the company decided to take its focus back to snowmobiles, and the Star Cars were discontinued. But soon the company began exploring the idea of building ATVs. They started with three-wheelers with the idea that they’d be useful on farms. The timing wasn’t great; consumer protection agencies spoke out against the lack of safety with three-wheelers. Polaris pivoted to four-wheelers, which quickly became popular. They built consumer fun-ride versions as well as rugged work editions.
The company also moved into the motorcycle market.
But no matter what they built, it all started with a dream, an idea, and a small-scale model.
The Polaris Experience Center is open Monday-Saturday, and admission is free. If you want to bring a group of 15 or more, please call ahead at 218-463-4999.
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