Iron Dog Brigade Who are these Iron Dogs?

What is an Iron Dog?

Well, back in 1960 a guy named Edgar Hetteen took a ride across Alaska on a new contraption called a Polaris snowmobile. When the natives saw it, they promptly named it an ”iron dog" because it did the work of their dog-teams, and the term began to be a popular name for snowmobiles.

Now to the Iron Dog Brigade . . .

In 1975 Ray Brandt, the western US distributor for Polaris, presented the idea of an “Old Timer’s Club to recognize the years of service many people had given the snowmobile business.” He sent letters to other leaders in the industry outlining this new group’s reason to exist.

Within a month there were a dozen industry leaders that thought enough of the idea that they held a meeting in Minneapolis to discuss the new venture. All saw merit in the idea and were anxious to start up the new group. Two months later, at a national snowmobile trade show in Milwaukee, they met again. This time they adopted a set of by- laws, elected officers, adopted the name “Iron Dog Brigade,” and formally organized the new group.

Their original goal was to become “an association of persons who have had a love affair with the sport of snowmobiling and have actively promoted that sport for more than a decade”. Membership was to be limited to 100 persons.

It was to also to be a speaker’s bureau that would be available to clubs to promote the sport, and an organization to recognize others for their outstanding achievement and/or contribution to the fun and enjoyment of the sport. A main goal was to stimulate persons who had n never snowmobiled never snowmobiled into trying the sport for the first time.

Over the next 30+ years the Iron Dog Brigade has presented a bit of mystery to the rank and file of snowmobilers.

They have an annual meeting and private banquet each year at the International Snowmobile Congress and little else is seen about them in press releases or news items.

To some, the Iron Dog Brigade represents a symbol of the mystical romance of the sport.

There is no secret handshake or greeting, however they are the most respected and hardest working members of the snowmobile community. They are not a political-lobbing group or safety organization. Nor will they promote any one brand over the other.

Over the years minor changes have been adopted to keep the “Dogs” current with changes in the sport and industry. Now they are capped at 130 members.

What does the Iron Dog Brigade do?

Their motto: “An honorary society dedicated to the fun of snowmobiling” must have them doing something.

Each year several are nominated for membership openings created by the passing of a member. Those eligible are inducted at the annual banquet consisting of a ceremony compete with a four-foot long sword touching each shoulder as they process from a “pup” to a full-fledged member of the Iron Dog Brigade.

In their ranks are the volunteers that have put in countless hours of time to plan, build, and maintain trails. Others have served gallantly in the governmental areas that administrated the sport. Some have published magazines and newsletters for their state associations in the face of hard economic times.

Many have been local, state, and national officers in various snowmobile clubs and associations donating hundreds of hours of their time to make the sport better and so enjoyable for others.

Perhaps the most important recognition the Dogs bestow is to the awarding of the Iron Dog Distinguished Service Award handing out on an annual basis alternating between volunteers and industry/government people.

"Been there.....done that," can also be their motto as they now must have contributed 15 years of service to the sport, through an affiliation in organized snowmobiling, industry, media, government, tourism, or other snowmobile related activity. Most have 30+ years of service.

The Iron Dog Brigade is truly an honorary society. Of the 110 current members, 40 living members and 15 deceased members have been inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame housed at the World Snowmobile Headquarters in Eagle Rivers. Many others have been inducted into their state Halls of Fame.

All are, or were, very successful leaders in their respective professions or volunteer groups. They all share the same goal . . . to promote the sport of snowmobiling.

You won’t see them in gaudy jackets with blazing colors. You won’t see them in the limelight at functions and events. Nor will you see them bragging about their accomplishments.

But they are the people who have, for well over 15 years, rolled up their sleeves, got to the task at hand, in whatever snowmobile arena it might be, and worked hard and diligently to keep the sport of snowmobiling on track.

For more information on the Iron Dog Brigade, please visit their website.

Many of the “Dogs” are also members of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame.

The beautiful ceremonial sword for the Iron Dog Brigade was donated by Tom and Bev Anderson in 2017. The four-foot sword is used at the annual banquets, where the sword touches each shoulder of new members as they process from a “pup” to a full-fledged member of the Iron Dog Brigade.
Bob and Judy King present the Iron Dog Brigade Distinguished Service Award to 2021 recipient Joann Smith.
Thank you to Kay Lloyd for donating her Iron Dog Brigade Flag to hang on display at the World Snowmobile Headquarters, museum.

Charitable Gift Recognition Pillar of Strength

Our Pillar of Strength charitable gift recognition program for both individuals and businesses helps support the ongoing operations of the HQ and includes a custom brass plaque personalized with your name, family name or organization that will appear on the walls of the HQ for all to see upon making your donation.