The Achilles heel of snowboards is that they are absolutely no use for going uphill, as a result we are forced to use one of the following options:
- Hiking – Always worth avoiding
- Chairlifts – Practical, but dull
- Helicopters – Awesome, but you do need a tame pilot and they’re always tricky to find
But there is another option, and we’re busy trying to find a way to afford one right now...
A history of snow trucks
This beast was first built way back in 1900. Designed to haul logs, it weighed 14 tons and a top speed of 20mph downhill, but it also had no brakes. As a result of that small design fault the life expectancy of the drivers was just one week. Here it is it in action...
According to this source, because of the lack of brakes, “Great care was taken in planning the haul roads to avoid steep grades and sharp pitches. Road Monkeys were stationed at troublesome grades to spread hay to check the descent.”
The lack of brakes and the apparent need to have a troop of trained monkeys pretty much rules out this one for us though. Fortunately since 1900 there have been some significant advances in the technology.
Antarctic Snow Cruiser aka The Penguin
The James Bond villaintastic Antarctic Snow Cruiser was 17m long, it weighted 34 tons, could keep the crew of 5 self sufficient for a year and it had its own aeroplane, which would be handy. This bad boy was built back in 1939 in Indiana, but things didn’t start well when on the drive to the port it drove off a bridge and crashed into a river where it remained stuck for 3 days. Unfortunately the problems didn’t stop there, because when they arrived at Antarctica, after managing to narrowly avoid crashing getting off the boat, they found that that smooth tires spun freely on the ice and the truck barely moved.
A second set of wheels and some snow chains were added and it was then possible to drive it, but only in reverse. The longest journey it managed, going backwards all the way, was 92 miles. You think they would have tested the whole slippery tire theory before going all the way to Antarctica.
After the abject failure the Snow Cruiser was left abandoned in Antarctica. In the years since the Snow Cruiser was covered in snow and ice and it‘s now either deep within a glacier or at the bottom of the ocean. Still, it looked bloody awesome.
So not a great success then and not quite the design advance we were looking for, the race was still on to design the ultimate snow truck.
Now we’re talking. By 1958 the boffins of the world had got all their ducks in a row when they produced the Tucker Sno-Cat. These things were used to make the first overland traverse of Antarctica in a 99 day expedition led by an English chap called Sir Vivian Fuchs. The most memorable part of the trip was this epic photograph.
When you get your Sno-Cat stuck precariously over a crevasse, make sure you have a few other Snow-Cats and a whole lot of nattily dresses lads with shovels to help get you out.
The company was started in the 1920s and it’s still around today if you fancy getting yourself a new model.
Just beaten to the punch of traversing Antarctica in 1958 were the Soviets and their 34 ton monsters the Kharkovchanka.
This huge tractor could seat 6 people in the cab and had sleeping room for 10 in the hermetically sealed body along with a kitchen, a bathroom ad office and a comms room.
It could travel at over 40kph and climb 30 degree inclines, and when all’s said and done it would make a pretty practical snowboarder conveyance in our books.
A few years later in around 1970 the Soviets were back with some more snow monsters with the Zil-29061, although I think that this was a bit on an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It used an Archimedes screw to propel itself over the snow and it looks more than a little bit uncontrollable. I wouldn’t like to be the guy who had to stand near it and film this.
In 1973 another strange vehicle was built in the US and they are still being used today in Alaska. The huge tires reduce the pressure on the ice allowing the truck to pass over the ground without damaging it. Unfortunately they are rubbish on rocks which will easily puncture the soft tires, which pretty much rules this out for snowboarding transportation purposes.
And the Americans were still busy inventing in 2007 when Colorado welder Rex Bailey cobbled this monster together. With 76 inch tires and some seriously bonkers rear-wheel steering it also appears to be a little on the impractical side.
Also in 2007 Nike got in the act and designed a truck specifically for snowboarders and its mint. It was designed by illustrator Adam Haynes and based around and AMC Eagle. He started off with some pretty out there designs which once we save up our cash, well be taking these blueprints straight to a custom shop.
And this was the finished product which you might still catch at an event near you this season. Or you might see its summer brother the Ill Mobile Truck.
And that brings us up-to-date, so let’s take a look at what you can buy for this season...
Already got a truck? Then whack a set of Mattracks on them and you’re laughing.
We first saw Mattracks when we looked at powered snowboards. That time we were pretty unimpressed by the resulting underpowered snowboard, but their main product does look worth a shot.
There is a limit to what sort of truck you can use though. This is the limit.
It’s those crazy Russians again and they’ve still got game. Invest some money with some very pasty and tired looking men from the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia, and you could soon be the proud owner of a VIKING-2992 all terrain vehicle (presumably they built this one after 2991 failed attempts). It’s amphibious, it runs on snow and even better it can also be driven on the road. Woo Ha
And if you can’t afford your own snow truck just yet, then start saving because here are a few designs you can look forward to in the future...
Polar Vehicle by Matthieu Tarrit
MTD Expediation Truck by Maarten Timmer Design Studio
Arctic Explorer by Bastien Peletot
Antarctic Exploration Vehicle by Thomas Zenteno
Salomon Ice Truck by Antoine Chassagne
It’s exciting times in the world of snow trucks. It’s going to be this year’s reverse camber and you need to get with this trend.
Want to get a taste of what it’s like to drive a snow truck as you save up for the down-payment? Here’s your chance...
Check out the Mattracks powered snowboard
Or, maybe look at a cheaper alternative to a snow truck...a snowterbike