The earliest snowmobiles were modified Ford Model Ts with the undercarriage replaced with tracks and skis. They were popular for rural mail delivery for a time. Polaris Industries in Roseau, Minnesota was a pioneer in the production of purpose-built snowmobiles.
Modern snowmobiles can achieve speeds in excess of 110 km/h. Racing snowmobiles reach speeds in excess of 260 km/h (160 mph). People die every year when they crash into other snowmobiles, automobiles, pedestrians, or trees or falling through ice. Around 10 people a year die in such crashes in Minnesota alone. Alcohol is often involved, but not always.
Industrial type snowmobiles for grooming cross-country ski trails and right of way maintenance are also made. They are large and can carry passengers and cargo, and tow sleds.