You like rockets? Well, similar to NASA calling, this is the way Canadians hurtle themselves across (a snowy) space. Gently squeeze that throttle, feel the overpowering torque of the sleigh between your thighs, loudly ripping across the sweet powdery slopes. Roar. Braaap. Laugh. Scream with joy. This is winter in British Columbia, the new snowmobiling capital of the world.
Snowmobiling is an incredible rush, and it’s crazy risky — and there’s no better place to try it than in the powder-filled ski towns of British Columbia, where it’s becoming more popular than ever. If you have the guts to give it a go, here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know about snowmobiling in BC.
What is snowmobiling?
Snowmobiling is as Canadian as cheesy poutine and pond hockey. Canadians buy a third of the world’s snowmobiles every year. Up here in BC, local clubs rev up thousands of snowmobiles each winter to enjoy the thrills of riding a tracked machine. You sit on a long, padded cushion seat atop a brilliantly designed steel frame that encases the rubber track, which provides traction on trails and deep powder laps. Don’t worry, the front engine provides plenty of juice to propel you across both snow and ice.
What was once a tool for work and transportation in communities with limited accessibility in winter has now become a regular, everyday sliding joy for many — and the growth of participation in “sledding,” as it’s called, has taken off faster than the full-throttle horsepower under their feet.
But listen up. Although snowmobiling is adrenaline-inducing, it’s critical you pay serious attention when it comes to these wild horses. Be safe and develop your skills before freaking pinning it. Be wise with both riding and snow safety awareness; they go hand-in-hand. You must heed Avalanche Canada’s forecasts and, most importantly, begin sledding with guides first and experienced friends after that.
Your guide will share safe riding skills and handling tips, and they’ll point out important local signage. Many areas are closed to riding in order to protect the wildlife and national parks, or they’re being reserved for non-motorized use. That being said, let’s go ride the goods. Here’s where to do it.
The Powder Highway — Fernie and Golden, BC
The Powder Highway loops through British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains, connecting some of the best small, hardcore ski resorts in North America. One of those Powder Highway stops, Fernie, is famous for legendary powder. That powder also makes it a sledder’s happy place. This is snow globe time, where an expansive groomed trail network leads to a variety of alpine bowls, ridge riding, and myriad natural terrain parks. Take a snowmobile clinic with Weir Boondocking and learn to handle your pocket rocket from pros.
There’s something about Golden, BC, that screams, “RIDE HERE.” Maybe it’s because when you drive down a main street, you’ll see it lined with snowmobile-towing pickup trucks. They kind of give away the secret that you’ve landed in piston paradise. Check out the Kicking Horse snowmobile tours at Rocky Mountain Riders to get that taste. Feel like forested trails or shooting for the moon — straight up to the sky? There are snowy, rideable peaks aplenty here.
Mining history — Wells, BC, and the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail
Going into the heart of central British Columbia, here lies a vast expanse of trees, ranges of peaks, and the real feeling of discovery. Wells is just a bit off the beaten path, but who can resist hanging with the wild folk, old timers, miners, cowboys, and dirtbags who gather, ride, and share one heck of a beautiful spot? Wells, British Columbia, probably doesn’t ring a bell, but it should. It’s got a bonanza of trails. Some of those paths head to the high country, some lead to powder-filled meadows, and others to forgotten structures from mining-town days gone by.
For a deeper dive into BC’s mining past, strike it rich on the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail. Few long trails have so much history; each bend unfolds a tale. Be a pioneer, sled the gold rush trail, and follow the 1850s miners’ trail across high passes, through densely forested valleys, and into alpine snow-filled basins. Some places still show tunnels of hope along this 280-mile winter journey of a lifetime.
The northern wilderness — Smithers, British Columbia
Smithers, British Columbia, is a place where a tremendous refresh happens, where you can feel like you are all alone in your own winter wonderland. Flakes feel sweeter here, along miles of mountain trails that fork into endless alpine or leave you to your own private snow bowl. Go with Harvey Mountain Adventures as they’ll show you a good time, northern style.
Going coastal — Whistler, BC
Right next to the largest ski resort in North America, limitless sledding is calling. You’ll find something for every age and rider level here, from cabins and campfires to fondue dinners after spinning your treads. There are miles of riding options from alpine to valley floor. Go guided: Check out Whistler’s array of snowmobile adventures — like the folks at Blackcomb Snowmobile — and let the friendly, caring team introduce you to a classic Canadian adventure.