"Would you like to be a passenger?" No, i thought i want to drive as well! It was minus 20 degrees, and i was about to set off on a 3 hr snowmobile journey up through the hills and forests around Kiruna in Swedish Lapland.
Snowmobiles are surprisingly easy to drive . Turn a key, press a button and the accelerator is a lever you squeeze on the handlebars. Let go of the lever and the snowmobile glides to a halt. I've never driven a motorbike but i imagine its very similar except the Snowmobile is very stable due to the skis which really do make you feel safe. The handlebars have heaters built in which are so effective that i had to turn mine down as my hands were sweating! There is a plastic see through visor and i was also wearing a helmet with visor to help protect the face from the wind. I had also opted to wear a balaclava to help protect my face from the cold. With my elegant (not!) all in one thermal suit, boots and gloves i was as snug as a bug - amazing in that temperature !
So we set off through the forest always climbing up to reach the open hillside where we headed for the top for the view. 3 snowmobiles in a row, our guide leading the way. Half way up the hillside thick mist rolled in circling around us blocking out the lovely view. Petri , our guide, advised us the plan was changing as "this was no fun" and headed back down to where it was clearer and warmer.
We stopped for a hot ligonberry, the local favourite non alcoholic tipple, and watched a skier on the frozen lake. I use the word "skier" losely as she was being pulled by a husky and there wasn't much exercise for her involved - It looked great fun!
We set off again across the frozen lake and "let rip" and went fast. I really thought i was being quite daring until we stopped to watch 2 young guys with racing snowmobiles. The leading youth pastime in the area - football doesn't cut the mustard! Apparantly there is a whole league of snowmobile racing attire, equipment and accessories. Now i realised i wasn't really pushing it that fast after all!
At the end of the frozen lake we had to cross a road and it amused me that there was even a roadsign warning drivers that snowmobiles would be crossing.
I have to say when we reached the end i was tired and slept well that night. All that fresh clean air, and turning the snowmobiles when driving through thick snow can be hard work and my shoulders had definitely had a work out. But what a great experience - a really fun and easy way to get out into the wilderness.