Join me for Extreme Snowmobiling in Svalbard
Would you spend the day picking wildflowers on the mountains or fishing in the North Sea? Well, maybe fishing, but not picking wildflowers...no flowers here yet.
For my free day and my $80 I took my first snowmobiling trip. 80 miles of snowmobiling...hey, that's about $1/mile....not bad for this unique snowmobiling in Svalbard entertainment.
Svalbard is a winter snowmobile vacation dream world.
Yup...no fences to worry about, no trees to bump into and barely any roads, so no traffic or culverts to watch for...but do watch out for the melting glaciers and streams. Better yet, follow the guide and don't get fancy wandering around on your own.
Mid May is still time for winter sports. Signs of melting are evident, but didn't prohibit the last week of snowmobiling in Svalbard adventure for tourists to this fairy tale land of the midnight sun.
Now, I admit, this was a little scary. I'd only experienced Minnesota snowmobiling once alone in my life and just the gear they insisted we wear was somewhat intimidating.
When Mike, my brother, and I would take winter walks from our farm in Echo, Minnesota we’d go and go and go, having a blast discovering the winter wonderland around us, until we got so tired and cold we couldn’t go a step further….then….we turned around for the return trip.
We never did figure out that we should start back home before we got worn out…
So, this one particular day, as we dragged ourselves up the field road, totally exhausted and frozen to the core, we decided there must be a better way to enjoy Minnesota winters and started designing our dream mode of transportation.
We thought, “All we need is a little car, just big enough to sit on that would glide over the snow on skis and have a motor…”
The rest of the way we fine tuned every detail of our “little snow car.”
By the way, ours had an enclosed see through roof and heat, so we’d be warm.
That memory is so vivid to me, even though it must have been about 45 years ago...before the history of snow machines.
Imagine our surprise when shortly after snowmobiles started popping up everywhere.
We should have applied for a patent!
Here I am (on the left) all decked out in the finest winter clothes I've ever worn, complete with boots, snowmobiling helmet and goggles.
The community of Longyearbyen and the bluff above it is in the background.
This great couple from Stavanger, Norway and I became fast friends as we waited to go. (I think they were a little apprehensive too about snowmobiling in Svalbard.)
Hakan, the guide gave us some quick..."here's the gas, here's the break," type of orientation and off we went.
Ohhhh, I could have used a little more instruction here…but I guess I figured it out.
Of course, since our destination was Barentsburg, a Russian city, I had to shift into my "charitable-giving mode" and load up the head snowmobile sled with stuff to give away to the children in Barentsburg.
No complaints from anyone though...thanks, guys.
Also on this sled were emergency supplies and a gun. It's a law in Svalbard that you must take a gun with you when leaving the city limits of Longyearbyen.
Why? Terrorists? Bandits?
No....polar bears. Dangerous polar bears that kill humans. Just a couple of weeks before I visited Svalbard, a young lady was attacked and killed by a polar bear just above the community bluff you see in the photo above.
Her girl friend had the sense of mind to jump, breaking a leg, but the unfortunate girl didn't jump and was killed with her stomach eaten out...ughhhh.
I'm glad they brought a gun.
Then there's the camera problem...I need to have a snowmobiling pic. No one will believe me otherwise. And, of course, I must wear my glasses to see where I'm going, which keep fogging up on me under these crazy goggles.
"I wonder if I can take these things off ?" I found myself musing while buzzing 60 miles/hour over endless stretches of snowy plains and valleys. Finally, I did, vision much improved!
So, balancing camera and snowmobile I did manage to get a "real-live-I'm-driving-a-snowmobile-in-Svalbard” photo.
Do you believe me now after seeing this extreme snowmobiling photo?
Yes, I really did this!
After we got on our way, one of the first things that occurred to me is this: Snowmobiles are incredibly LOUD. This did not annoy me in the least…quite the contrary.
I was thrilled.
Because that meant, even if we were a group, I could sing praises to God at the top of my lungs at the top of the world! I was in heaven!
I honestly don't think anyone ever heard me. Such a joy!
Even if this were the whole purpose in being directed to come here...it would be worth it.
God should be praised at the top of the world, and the bottom and the middle...but I was near the top....so it was my job.
I felt His pleasure.
Want to learn more about praising God? Check out this site.
Our experienced guide, stopped every now and then for "group-unity-reinenforcement" and to tell us interesting facts about the area. He also probably knew we needed a rest from not being used to this gloriously fun, yet high tension activity.
Here our guide is explaining to us how the local reindeer usually die, not from old age, but from starvation.
Not enough tundra mosses to eat?
No, there's plenty of that.
The trouble is the tundra is also filled with small rocks and pebbles.
As the reindeer eats, he also picks up these small rocks and as he chews the rocks break up his teeth.
Before his old age hits, his teeth no longer are able to grasp and chew the greens.
Hence, here’s a reindeer skull with very poor teeth.
This is so off topic, but it reminds me of my Turkish friends who think nothing of cracking filbert nuts with their teeth....ohhh. All of that yogurt they eat must build stronger teeth than in America.
At another stop our guide showed us a small cabin on the side of hill. I forget the exact details, but here some local people observed the Germans who took over deserted Longyearbyen during World War II and watched their every move.
After some time of snowmobiling in Svalbard, we reached signs of civilization again. Can you imagine living in a community that's only accessible by snowmobile in the winter and by ship in the summer? That's Barentsburg, a Russian city in Svalbard on the island of Spitsbergen.
Read about Barentsburg on another of my pages. I’ll limit this page to the snowmobiling in Svalbard.
So.....time to return home to Longyearbyen before dark....and back on the snow machines for more snowmobiling in Svalbard and off through town.
The only trouble is there was no road going out of town, making it necessary for us to hike ourselves and our snowmobiles over a large mound of snow at the edge of the town's snowmobile road.
This quick turn to the right over a ridge of snow required just the right speed, propulsion and leaning of the body…things that are learned from experience. Maybe I'll do better next time...
We took a different way home along the sea, a little scary for me but safe enough.
Then there was the monster dip where we needed to go down quickly and back up quickly....sort of like snowmobiling down and up the letter “U”…well....I wasn't too quick. After my failed attempt, our trusty snowmobiling in Svalbard guide maneuvered that one for me.
But, as we neared Longyearbyen on a very large open glacier...we were forewarned that we could “let her rip” and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour. That I could handle…no ridges to conquer, no dips…just a big open glacier…now, snowmobiling in Svalbard like that is fun!
Our little group roared back home into Longyearbyen, over ground starting to show patches of ground from the spring thaw--fortunately I'd arrived in Longyearbyen for the last week of snowmobiling in Svalbard for that season. And whew...I really did it!
My new Stavanger friends invited me to join them for dinner after snowmobiling in Svalbard....and again....I was busy talking, so had to take my food home in a doggie bag.
It’s a sure sign of an exciting day if I can't eat twice!
It was the end of a near perfect day of arctic snowmobiling in Svalbard.
We didn’t even need to use that gun.
My dream now is to take our whole family here for a winter snowmobiling in Svalbard vacation.
Thanks for joining me!