By Amy Rea

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.

polaris201 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

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

polaris20machine202 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

There was considerable trial and error, research and development, involved from the very beginning.

polaris202 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

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.

polaris204 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

polaris205 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

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.

polaris20star20car The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

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.

polaris207 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

The company also moved into the motorcycle market.

polaris206 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

But no matter what they built, it all started with a dream, an idea, and a small-scale model.

polaris209 The Polaris Experience Center in Roseau

Amy C. Rea

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.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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