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J. ARMAND BOMBARDIER MUSEUM - VALCOURT QUEBEC

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If you are planning a snowmobile vacation in the Quebec Eastern Townships, then head to Valcourt. The World Snowmobile Capital is located east of Montreal and northwest of Sherbrooke QC.

Museum entrance
Museum entrance.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Driving directions from Montreal? The easiest way to get to Valcourt, is to follow Hwy. 10 east past Granby to Waterloo. Turn left at Exit 90 and follow Route 243 and the road signs to the J. Armand Bombardier Museum in Valcourt.

It takes about 75 minutes to drive the 130 kilometers from Montreal to Valcourt.

Snowmobile trails

The Eastern Townships of Quebec have 15 snowmobile clubs and nearly 1,900 kilometers of snowmobile trails. Near Valcourt, the 750-km Circuit J. Armand Bombardier is named in honor of the inventor of the Ski-Doo® snowmobile.

Anyone going on snowmobile trips in the Eastern Townships should first visit the J. Armand Bombardier Museum. The Valcourt museum is a tribute to the career of Joseph-Armand Bombardier and a shrine for snowmobiling enthusiasts. Even for non-snowmobilers, it is a fascinating voyage through the history of all-terrain winter vehicles.

Museum exhibits

The main exhibit, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, a passion for invention and entrepreneurship, opened in 2007 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of J. Armand Bombardier. Historical photos and 14 restored vehicles emphasize the innovation of M. Bombardier inventions, such as his perfection of the famous sprocket wheel-track system.

Reproduction of motorized sleigh designed by Joseph Armand and his brother in 1922
Reproduction of motorized sleigh designed by Joseph Armand and his brother in 1922
Photo © J. Armand Bombardier Museum

A highlight of the snow machines in the J. Armand Bombardier Museum is the reproduction of a motorized sleigh that 15-year-old Joseph-Armand built with his brother Leopold, in 1922.

Powered by a propeller and a four-cylinder Ford Model T engine, it had four sleigh runners. The Bombardier brothers drove the experimental machine for a mile, but their father insisted that they dismantle it.

Track vehicles

It's captivating to see the many types of vehicles that could drive on snow. They include the B7, a wooden and steel contraption powered by a V8 Ford engine, for the transport of passengers and goods, used by milkmen and travelling salesmen.

A full-track vehicle, featuring a longer, more aerodynamic profile than the B7 snowmobile, the B12, was developed in 1941. The versatile track vehicle was used to haul wood, transport students in rural communities, personnel, mail, goods and other purposes.

B12 snowmobile from 1947
B12 snowmobile from 1947
Photo © J. Armand Bombardier Museum

During the war, Mr. Bombardier tested an snow vehicle with a steel body and openings for guns.

In 1953, he launched the Muskeg tractor, an all-track, all-terrain vehicle, the first to be equipped with all-rubber sprockets and endless tracks to enable work and transport on difficult terrain.

The Muskeg tractor was part of a series of vehicles, specifically designed for the logging, mining, exploration and oil-drilling industries.

Bombardier Garage

Recognizing his son's talents, Alfred Bombardier built him a garage where Joseph-Armand worked as a mechanic, while designing vehicles. Today, visitors can walk through the garage to view his office and tools.

In spite of all his industrial achievements, Bombardier still dreamed of creating small personal snowmobiles. A prototype, developed for trappers and game wardens in the far north, became the first Ski-Doo® in 1959.

International snowmobiles

The International Snowmobile Exhibit showcases a vast collection of snowmobile models from Russia, Finland and other northern countries. It also features a fun interactive quiz, which tests snowmobilers' knowledge of the sport.

Alouette, Big Al from 1971
Alouette, Big Al from 1971
Photo © J. Armand Bombardier Museum

Theme presentations reveal manufacturing secrets, mechanics, clothing and recreational uses of snowmobiles. Among the collectible snowmobiles in this section of the J. Armand Bombardier Museum are the Formula One machines, driven by brothers Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve.

The most unique machine in the Bombardier Snowmobile Museum collection is the Alouette, a James Bond-style vehicle, which was created by the designer of the batmobile. It achieves speeds of up to 322 kilometers per hour, but ran only once, during the test drive.

Temporary exhibitions rotate through the J. Armand Bombardier Museum.

Bombardier vintage vehicle services

The J. Armand Bombardier Museum offers photocopies of technical publications to collectors of recreational and industrial tracked vehicles. A driver's guide, repair manual, sales brochure and parts catalog help collectors restore and conserve their Bombardier vintage vehicles.

Collectors can also trace Bombardier vintage vehicle serial numbers, colour codes and other details to help restore their vintage vehicles.

BPR factory visits

J. Armand Bombardier Museum group packages (for ages 14 years and older) include admission to the museum and a visit to the BPR factory, where Ski-Doo® snowmobiles are assembled. Packages, which depend on the BPR factory production schedule, must be booked in advance.

Snowmobile races

For many visitors, the highlight of a snowmobile vacation to the Eastern Townships is the Grand Prix Ski-Doo de Valcourt, held annually in February. The largest snowmobile event in the world swells the population of Valcourt from 3,500 to 27,000.

Three days of festivities include Snocross races, oval racing, motorcycles on ice show, Ski-Doo® snowmobile demonstrations and exhibits of new Ski-Doo® models. In addition to the competitions, visitors can enjoy entertainment and free family activities.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

J. Armand Bombardier Museum: www.museebombardier.com

Grand Prix Ski-Doo de Valcourt: www.grandprixvalcourt.com

Tourism Eastern Townships: www.easterntownships.org

More things to see and do in the Quebec Eastern Townships:

Old Mansion House Vacation Rental

Snowshoeing in Magog