Snowmobiling in South America?

Brandon Scott spent his summer vacation snowmobiling—in Chile

by Trish Drinkle

A snow scene with the Chilean pine tree.
Subtle changes in the landscape remind you you're not in North America anymore. Brandon Scott photo

When visualizing a dream vacation, many people see themselves on a remote tropical beach, sipping umbrella-garnished drinks in the warm sun. 

But if you're a passionate snowmobiler like 34-year-old Brandon Scott of Kimberley, B.C., your dream may look somewhat different. Scott started riding with a friend when he was 18 years old and got hooked for life. There is nothing he’d rather do than carve up white gold, which is what led him to snowmobiling in Malalcahuello, Chile.

Brandon Scott, pictured here with his son Brayden, knew an adventure of a lifetime awaited his arrival in Chile.
Brandon Scott, left, pictured here with his son Brayden. Brandon Scott photo

In August 2014, Scott boarded a plane and headed south in search of snow. He booked his vacation through Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure and it was pricy— about $4500.

“Why not?" said Scott. "This is my vacation, and this is what I love to do. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will remember for the rest of my life is worth it. Worth way more to me than soaking up sun on a beach, or surrounded by crowds at another tourist destination."

Scott said the terrain in the Andes Mountains has features every boondocking snowmobiler would enjoy: vast powdery bowls above treeline, volcanic drainages and inviting tree riding. Drainages provide ample opportunity to test out and perfect your chute climbing techniques.

Sledding tracks on a hill on a perfect bluebird day in the Andes Mountains.
Snowmobiling terrain is at 7,000 feet or so in the Andes. Brandon Scott photo

The Chilean pine called the monkey puzzle tree bring a whole new level of challenge to the adventure. These ancient trees have extremely sharp needles and can pierce gloves and snowmobile gear.

The Chilean pine tree called the Araucaria araucana, or Monkey Puzzle tree have extremely sharp leaves, or needles.
The Araucaria araucana, or monkey puzzle tree, has extremely sharp needles. Brandon Scott photo

“Pack extra gloves if you plan on doing a lot of tree riding,” said Scott. “It was really unique riding. You simply knew you weren’t in North America anymore.”

With riding elevations from 4,000 to 7,000 feet, even riders from the flat lands are able to keep their breath. 

A warm up shack Chilean style.
A warm-up shack, Chilean style. Brandon Scott photo

“I rode with Chris Burandt in Colorado before riding in Chile," said Scott. "The riding elevation in Colorado was around 10,000 feet and it was really hard for me to function. I was concerned that I would get altitude sickness in South America, but I didn’t. The elevation was perfect."

Scott spent three solid days riding with Burandt's crew, exploring deep, untouched snow. His only regret is that the vacation was too short. Next visit he'd like to see more of South America. 

"After my snowmobile trip was over, I spent days travelling up the coast to some tourist destinations," said Scott. "Some of the mountain towns resemble a Jasper or Banff-like atmosphere, but South American style. There is so much to be seen in South America, especially if you are a snowmobiler."

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