Riding free - snowmobiling the backcountry

  • 2500 kilometre-long Cain’s Quest endurance race in Labrador
  • 1937 snowmobiles invented in Quebec
  • 10 million people snowmobile every year in Canada

With the whole backcountry as your playground - from Arctic tundra and boreal forest to mountains, coastline and across frozen sea ice - it’s no wonder snowmobiles are a Canadian invention, the brainchild of Québec’s Joseph-Armand Bombardier. Each province and territory has marked, groomed trails as well as wide-open wilderness to explore. Slide into boots, strap on a helmet, hop on and head off into the great outback for a day, week or month. Follow your guide up winding forest trails to a gourmet mountaintop dinner or drive your own by the light of a full moon. Follow a path along old railway lines or stoke your adrenalin climbing powder-bowl peaks and motoring along high mountain ridges. Spot moose and elk. Slide into a natural hot springs. Go ice fishing on a frozen pond and catch your own dinner. Then ride beneath the shifting glow of the Northern Lights to a rustic log cabin or luxury lodge deep in the woods.

Alberta

  • Race along Rocky Mountain trails with spectacular views of peaks and glaciers in Golden, not far from the castle-like Banff Springs Hotel.
  • Alberta’s mountain ranges are ribboned with snowmobile trails and operators to get you out there.

Newfoundland & Labrador

  • Watch Cain’s Quest, at 2,500 kilometres the longest snowmobile endurance race in Canada and one of the world’s toughest.
  • Go snowmobiling with local enthusiasts on Newfoundland and Labrador’s more than 5,000 kilometres of trails.
  • Ride the edges of a glacier-carved fjord in Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Northwest Territories

  • Strap on a helmet and head out on bush trails to lakes and waterfalls or onto frozen Great Slave Lake, one of the world’s largest and deepest. Stop for a traditional “mug up” warming with tea or hot chocolate before heading back to rustic luxury at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Nunavut

Ontario

Quebec

  • Watch North America's premier snowmobile racing event in the Eastern Townships at the annual Grand Prix Ski-Doo de Valcourt, birthplace of snowmobiles. Then visit the Bombardier snowmobile museum.
  • Ride through the Gaspe Peninsula’s remote and untouched Chic Choc Mountains where eight metres of snow make it Canada’s best powder destination east of the Rockies.
  • Go snowmobiling in the wilderness north of Montréal with Tourism Manawan and learn about traditional life from your First Nations’ guide.
  • Tackle trails in the foothills of the Gatineau Mountains outside of Ottawa while staying in regal rustic luxury at the log Chateau Montebello.

Yukon

  • Pilot your own snowmobile on a multi-day trip with Northern Tales Tours along forested trails, into mountains and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Go dogsledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing or slip into hot springs before sleeping in cozy tents and lodges under the Northern Lights.

Weather

  • Winter temperatures vary greatly with altitude and latitude.
  • In the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut average winter temperatures range between -2°C and - 25°C, but extremes may be as low as -45°C. However, the air is dry and crisp and often feels warmer than indicated by the thermometer.
  • Weather conditions change rapidly in Canada’s North, so be prepared.
  • Winters are shorter in Southern Canada although the Rockies have a longer snow season. Expect temperatures of -5°C to -15°C and snow storms that may possibly delay your outings.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
When to go
  • The snowmobiling season in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and in Nunavut is from October to April.
  • Northern latitudes mean short days from November through January, although the dark nights offer a better chance to see the Northern Lights.
  • In Southern Canada, depending on the winter conditions, snowmobiling can be enjoyed from November through March.
  • The higher altitude of the Rockies or other mountain ranges offer a longer Southern riding season.
  • Spring (March and April) have longer and warmer days, great for snowmobiling.
Need to know
  • Some provinces require driver’s licences to operate a snowmobile.
  • If you don’t have your own snowmobile, contact one of the many certified outfitters who rent machines.
  • Bring warm winter clothing.
  • Though most outfitters who rent snowmobiles will also rent the specialized gear you need from helmets and insulated boots to snowmobiling suits, it’s wise to check in advance as some do not.
  • Be sure to travel with a guide who knows the region and hazards such as frozen body of waters that may be dangerous.
  • During blizzards and windstorms, expect your adventure to be delayed.
  • Especially in spring, bring sunglasses and sunscreen as the sun reflecting off the snow can be very strong.
  • Check out the Northern Lights forecast.