Snowmobile holidays & safaris in Swedish Lapland
Snowmobiling holidays in the Arctic Circle
Snowmobiling holidays in the Arctic Circle
Snowmobile safaris with wilderness lunch or northern lights chasing are one of the most popular ways to experience Lapland and the Arctic Circle. The season runs from December until late April and even May if you head up to the mountain terrain.
At the heart of the Arctic lifestyle
Since its birth in the 1950s, the snowmobile has become a central part of the Arctic lifestyle, where snow covers the ground more than six months of the year. You’ll see people picking up their kids from school or going to the supermarket on their snowmobile, and on the weekends they pack it with ice fishing rods, reindeer skins, and a picnic basket to enjoy the outdoors.
The snowmobile is an important vehicle in many lines of work, for example, used by the police and military, as well as the Sami reindeer herding, energy supply, and small-scale forestry industries – and tourism of course. There are around 500 local snowmobile sports associations around Sweden, with specialities ranging from the extremes like snocross, jumps and long-distance, to vintage competitions.
Ski-doo or snowmobile?
Knowing your ski-doo from your snowmobile is a sure way to show off in front of the rest of your tour group and gain the instant respect of locals.
Much to the dismay of locals to the Arctic, many tourists use Ski-doo synonymously with a snowmobile. Ski-doo is, in fact, a manufacturing brand so, by comparison, it’s like calling all kinds of trainers Nike or Adidas.
In recent years, technological advancements have improved the environmental impact of snowmobiles tremendously, making them less noisy and more fuel-efficient.
The tracks are carefully maintained, often by local authorities, and there are still large swathes of natural wilderness where snowmobiles are banned in order to protect wildlife and the traditional reindeer herding.
Planning a snowmobile holiday - finding the best tour company
There is a wealth of tour companies in Lapland offering snowmobile holidays ranging from short safaris to multi-day expeditions. Considering that you are heading out for at least several hours in the wilderness, it is very important to understand the factors that determine what your experience will be and not let price alone be the deciding factor.
Here are some useful tips on what to consider when choosing a tour provider
- How much time will you actually get to spend on the snowmobile? Don’t rely on the total duration of the excursion, but find out and compare how much of that time you’ll spend sitting on the snowmobile. While some tours start right outside the hotel, others have multiple pick-ups as well as transfer to the starting point of the safari– stealing away time that you could spend driving.
- Distance and type of tour. Safaris also vary in length and whether it takes you around a short circuit or on a more diverse and longer distance. Also, there is a dramatic difference between the experience of driving in woodland terrain, open vistas or mountain landscape.
- Size of the group. Naturally, the smaller the group, the better. Less time spent on delays, more time for driving – but also, more opportunity for the guide to adapt the tour to your wishes and skills level. Sweden has a legal limit of maximum 10 vehicles per guide on a tourist snowmobile tour, but the top line tour providers will run groups with less in order to offer a premium experience.
- Vehicle model and equipment standard. Woud you say that driving a 2002 Volvo and a 2018 edition is even remotely comparable? Probably not and the same goes for snowmobiles – except the technological advancements have been exponential in recent years so the difference is even greater. Find out what snowmobiles and manufacturing year the safari company offers, and also the standard of the other equipment such as helmets and snowsuits. Ensuring overseas visitors keep warm and comfortable are the Arctic tour provider’s main jobs so you should opt with a company that takes this seriously.
- Guide qualifications. In Sweden, the only legal requirement to work as a snowmobile tour guide is to have a valid driving license. However, the quality and more importantly your safety, is dependent on having a properly trained guide. Ensure you pick a provider who can guarantee that the guide has had wilderness safety and first aid training, thoroughly knows the local area and has experience with leading groups in the outdoors.
- Tour company qualifications. A serious tour provider will ensure they have a safety plan that is approved by the local emergency services, and that guides are trained at the beginning of each season. Also, they should have a crisis plan in place and a protocol for accident follow-up and evaluation.
- What’s included in the price? Beyond all of the above, there may be other added values to the tour such as meals or entry tickets, while with other operators, this comes at an extra cost.