8 bucket list snowmobile destinations around the world

From Japan to New Zealand, here are eight amazing places to go snowmobiling beyond North America

by Kirsten Armleder

snowmobiles by a large mountains of ice in Norway.
A snowmobile safari in Svalbard, Norway. Marcela Cardenas photo/www.nordnorge.com/Longyearbyen

We’ve got it pretty good here in Canada, with dozens of mountain ranges and over 121,000 kilometres of organized trails. But our country, nay our continent,  isn’t the only to offer incredible places to go snowmobiling. Below are some dream snowmobiling destinations that you might want to add to your bucket list: 

Hokkaidō, Japan

Because the major cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, receive minimal amounts of snow, Japan probably isn’t the first place you think of when it comes to snowmobiling. In reality, however, it is a country of extremes—with southern Japan being in the subtropical climate zone and northern Japan in the subarctic. A great part of Japan also consists of mountains, so when the constant cold air mass that blows in from Siberia crashes into the peaks, the outcome is paradise for snow lovers.

Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular outdoor winter activities in Japan, and the country is home to more than 500 ski resorts. Snowmobiling isn’t near as prolific, but there are several tour companies, which offer everything from trail riding to alpine sledding. Some of the ski resorts offer guided snowmobile tours as well. The best ski resorts and snow conditions are reportedly found on Hokkaidō, which is the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago.

What’s the riding like? Check out this video from Chris Brown:
 

 

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Finnmark and Svalbard, Norway

With broad plateaus, tall peaks, the northern lights and mountains that plunge hard into the ocean, Norway would be an amazing place to go snowmobiling. Unfortunately, due to strict environmental regulations, the country prohibits snowmobiling for fun. But commercial snowmobile tours are allowed. So is using a snowmobile for work or transportation. And by work, I mean herding semi-domestic herds of reindeer.

This activity takes place in Finnmark, which appears to have more relaxed rules on snowmobile use. According to one article, travel with snowmobiles along marked slopes is allowed, but no boondocking—unless of course, you are herding reindeer or transporting goods. In that case, riders are permitted to go off-trail.

The best way, then, for visitors to experience the snowmobiling in Norway is with a commercial tour operator. There are a number of companies offering guided snowmobile trips in Finnmark and on the archipelago of Svalbard.
To learn more about snowmobiling in Finland, you can check out our interview with a Finnish freeriding crew known as the Riders of Cold Kingdom

Sweden

Unlike it’s neighbour, Norway, Sweden embraces recreational snowmobiling and is home to a thriving winter scene. It is also home to some of the planet’s most notorious riders—including XGames gold medallist Daniel Bodin and pro backcountry rider Kalle “KJ” Johansson.

Like the CCSO in Canada, the Swedish Snowmobile Owners Federation (SNOFED) is the umbrella organization for snowmobile clubs throughout Sweden. Formed in the 1970s, SNOFED has about 126 members clubs under its belt. SNOFED also works with the Swedish Motorcycle and Snowmobile Council and the National Snowmobile Council to promote the safe and responsible use of snowmobiles throughout the country.

If you’re looking for snowmobile tours, rentals and all-inclusive trips, visit the Swedish Lapland website for more info. 

Lapland, Finland

Vast, pristine and untouched is the landscape in Finland—which, for six full months of the year, is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Snowmobiling is a popular activity here, especially in the northernmost region of Lapland.

Winter in Lapland usually begins in December and lasts until May. There is also the existence of what the Finns call “kaamos” or polar night. It is a time when the sun doesn’t rise. It doesn’t cause complete darkness, but in some places, the kaamos lasts for up to two months. Can you say cabin fever? Perhaps that’s why the Finns enjoy snowmobiling. It’s a way to get out and escape some of the darkness. They do get a full reprieve in March and April, though, when the other Finnish phenomenon occurs: 70 days of 16-hour sunlight.

Although Finland does not appear to have any official snowmobile clubs, there are several snowmobile guiding companies in this country. Most are based in Lapland and many of them include such things as viewing the northern lights or a visit to the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. This city, which is the capital of Lapland, is also home to BRP’s manufacturing plant for Lynx snowmobiles.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Ice caves, geysers, volcanoes and glaciers—this is what snowmobiling in Iceland will bring. Highly geologically active, Iceland is often referred to as a country of fire and ice. The weather here is very unpredictable but less extreme than one would think. It has even been said that Icelandic winters are milder than Canadian winters, thanks to a branch of the Gulf Stream that flows along the southern and western coast.

The other good news is that snowmobiling in Iceland can be done year round and it’s not hard to find a guide, especially in the capital city of Reykjavik.

Russia

Moscow and St. Petersburg are top travel destinations in Russia. Unless, of course, you’re a snowmobiler. Then it’s Russia’s huge wilderness that beckons you. From November to March, the largest country in the world offers some amazing snowmobile experiences. The Kola Peninsula, Karelia, Siberia and the Ural Mountains are a few areas where guided snowmobile tours are available.

Andes Mountains, Chile

Riding fresh pow in August is pretty much impossible—unless you’re snowmobiling in Chile. Because it lies south of the equator, Chile’s seasons are opposite to us here in Canada. From early June to late September, the Andes Mountains are caked in snow. Vast and varied, the Andes offer everything from tree riding to powdery bowls and volcanic drainages. Chris Burandt has been offering all-inclusive snowmobile trips to Chile for some time now. And according to him, snowmobiling in Chile is pretty much non-existent, which means that visitors will have the entire zone to themselves. You can read more about it in this article. Also, check out the following video:

New Zealand

New Zealand is another destination that has opposite seasons. Summer in Canada = winter in New Zealand. Referred to as the birthplace of extreme sports and adventure, New Zealand is a wild and very beautiful country that is covered by mountain ranges. Elevations range from 5,000 feet to 12,218 feet at the top of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

According to the AdventureSmart website, snowmobiling in New Zealand is usually done with guides. Queenstown Snowmobile Tours is a professional guiding service that offers heli-sledding tours on the South Island from July to late September.

What’s on your snowmobile bucket list? Tell us where in the world you would like to go snowmobiling, and why, in the comments section below. 

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