The bitter cold wind eats thru my balaclava. I can’t feel my ears, but I can’t feel it as the Arctic Tundra passes by me. I am driving a 600-lb snowmobile thru the wilds of Swedish Lapland near Kiruna, Sweden. The powerful machine easily cuts thru the snow as we explore the lakes and forests. I got a chance to take the Aurora Expedition snowmobile tour and Arctic Adventure tour with Kiruna Guidetur.
Driving a snowmobile is an exciting adventure when in Swedish Lapland. Starting in mid-November, the snow becomes thick enough for snowmobiling, and the rivers and lakes have developed sufficient ice. The locals begin grooming the trails. These trails aren’t just for the tourists. They are also the highways for people living in this remote region.
** All my photos are from my day snowmobile tour.
The Meeting Spot
The meeting spot for the tours is the Kiruna Guidetur office. The office at Vänortsgatan 8, 981 32 Kiruna, Sweden. It located in the corner of the main shopping square near the Kiruna in Swedish Lapland visitor center. It was an 8-minute walk from where I was staying at the SPiS Hotel.
Kiruna Guidetur offers pick-up from the area hotels including the ICEHOTEL. This cost 75 SEK (USD 9.01 as of December 2017) per person. If you are within walking distance of the office, I would just walk.
What to Wear
Kiruna Guidetur will provide all necessary gear. They have a dressing room full of snowsuits, snow boots, and gloves. They also offer thick socks and balaclavas.
I would wear a warm under layers such as thermal long johns and socks and then put Guidetur’s winter gear over top of your under layer. They have a variety of sizes available and are sure to have something to fit you.
I highly recommend using the provided gear. I found that even with the cold temperatures and the winds, I never got cold while on the tour.
No experience is required to drive a snowmobile. You do need a valid driver’s license. As long as it is valid, it can be from any country. They didn’t check my license, but they did make me sign a form saying I had a valid one and if I damaged the snowmobile they could charge me up to 6000 SEK.
Aurora Expedition Tour
This tour might have Aurora in its name, but it should be treated as night snowmobile tour with the possibility of seeing the northern lights. No one can guarantee that the lights of the north will be seen. It depends on the weather. I was unlucky and didn’t see the lights. It was cloudy with light snow. Do not expect to this to be a northern lights snowmobile tour. It is possible and if you have clear skies then it is likely.
Check-in starts at 5:30 pm. The tour leaves at 6:00 pm but the extra time is needed to get into the winter gear. My tour had three other people on it. We got dressed in our snowsuits and snow boots.
Once we were dressed, it was a 20-minute drive over to meet our snowmobiles. The trip was in a nice warm van with plenty of space for about 10-12 people. Once we were out of the van, there was a chance to go the bathroom before we headed down to the Torne River. The bathroom is warm.
It was a short downhill walk to the snowmobiles. The sun had set about two hours before the tour, so it is dark, but the guide carries a light. Our group was going to use four snowmobiles. The guide would have one, I had one, the other single female had one, and the couple was going to share one.
While waiting for the guide to get a few things together, we got to check out the igloos. Kiruna Guidetur has an option to build your own igloo and spend the night in it.
We had a short safety briefing on how to use a snowmobile and safety concerns. The key is to follow the tracks of the snowmobile in front of you. This helps prevent a ski from getting stuck in the snow or hitting a rock and damaging a snowmobile. The snowmobiles have hand warmers on the handlebars for both the driver and passenger. The gas is on the left-hand side and can be rotated to either use your thumb or fingers to control the gas. I preferred the fingers method.
Just like a car, one needs to leave enough following distance. I found that I preferred between 3-5 snowmobile lengths. This gave me enough time to slow down when the guide stopped or changed speeds. When turning, you need to lean slightly into the turn and keep your feet on the foot holders. The snowmobile is designed to keep your legs safe and not get caught on anything like short trees.
Once we were settled on our snowmobiles, we headed off along the frozen Torne River to have a fun evening ride along the river and in the woods. The trip lasted about 2.5 hours. I got up to about 40 km. Because our group was small and we had fresh powder, we got to play in the fresh snow and do some serpentines.
When our tour ended, we hiked back up the hill to a small cabin. Our guide started a fire, and we had some warm lingonberry juice along with cheese bread. Our guide also gave us moose sausage, reindeer sausage, reindeer hearts, and a soy-based sausage for the vegetarian in the group.
I was excited about the moose since I have never had it. In the USA, it is impossible to try moose unless you or someone you know hunts the moose. I am not an organ person, but I took a leap of faith and tried it (it couldn’t be worse than fermented shark in Iceland). The soy sausage was terrific, and I think my favorite of the snacks.
Kiruna Guidetur offers both day and evening tours. Their tours are comparable prices to others in the area. All tour costs are listed per person.
I went on the Aurora Expedition which costs 895 SEK (USD 107.54 as of December 2017) for an adult. The Aurora Expedition with dinner costs 1275 SEK (USD 153.19 as of December 2017).
They also offer several day tours ranging from 3.5 – 8 hours with costs of 895 SEK (USD 107.54 as of December 2017) to 1395 SEK (USD 167.61 as of December 2017). The day tours can explore the Torne River, go ice-fishing or visit the ICEHOTEL.
They have a couple of overnight tours as well that range from 2450 SEK (USD 294.37 as of December 2017) to 5675 SEK (USD 681.86 as of December 2017)
Have you ever been on a snowmobile tour? Do you want too?
Disclaimer: Kiruna Guidetur provided a discount on Aurora expedition for this review, and I had so much fun that I paid for the Arctic Adventure tour on my own. All opinions are my own.