After a night in an ice hotel, what could be more logical than spending a day on a snowmobile? Let’s dig right in.
We’re going with the good folks at Gargia Lodge, just outside of Alta up in the northernmost part of Norway, well above the Arctic circle. Beginning down in the valley, we’ll head past the tree line up onto the mountain. Specifically, the plateau known as Finnmarksvidda, one of Europe’s last wilderness areas. And you’re coming with. In spirit, at least. Also, you’ll have all the deets for when you go IRL.
Price of the safari includes pick-up and return to Alta, 26 km away. However, we drive ourselves. Until the end of the road. That’s where you’ll find Gargia. We’re there just before 10am, and hurry to get into the proper garb before the rest of the group arrives.
In our case, the rest of the group means tour operators from various European countries, here to test a product they’ll be selling. I approve; too often, travel agents and tour operators haven’t tried their own product. How can you recommend something you haven’t tried? Would I write about snowmobiling – or anything else – if I hadn’t tried it myself? I would not! In fact, it would be completely and utterly meaningless. And meaningless is not what Sophie’s World is about. Not even a little bit. But I digress (not for the first time).
Gear – and instruction
On to garb, because that’s very important, both for safety reasons and so we won’t freeze out there, braving the elements. Gargia provides the necessary gear, i.e. a thermal suit, proper boots and mittens, and a helmet with a balaclava. Underneath, we’re wearing lightweight, warm, wool underwear and wool socks.
Annette and I, all kitted out, and raring to go. Photo by Alltid Reiseklar
Driving a snowmobile isn’t difficult, we’re told. All you need is to be at least 16 years old, and be in possession of a driving licence for a car or moped. We’ll be going in twos, one to drive and one to sit behind. (For safety reasons, the person in the back can weigh max 88 kg.)
Co-owner at Gargia and our guide for the day, Arnt Bjørnø, takes us through the few things we need to know. He’ll see how we go, and give further instructions along the way if needed. We have Snorre Kristiansen behind as well, to keep an eye on us. And off we go; I drive first, then we’ll switch going back. Throughout, we’re well taken care of. Arnt and Snorre takes time to make sure we’re all in control and feel we can master these unfamiliar vehicles.
The old post route
Our trail today goes through the area known as Beskades, along the old post route between Alta and Kautokeino. We’ll drive for nearly 30 km across the wide, white, windy terrain, towards Suolovuopmi Mountain Lodge. Quite the distance, seems a little daunting at first. But that’s soon forgotten. This is fun! To top it all, the weather is beauuuutiful, the wind is at our back and the winter sun on our faces.
We stop frequently along the way, both to get a break, and to learn about this unique landscape and the history of the area. Also, Arnt wants to check on us, to make sure we’re all there, and that we’re handling it. Apparently, in a group a few days earlier, one of the participants (which nationality shall remain nameless) overturned the vehicle. That’s no good, neither for man nor (motorised) beast.
Arnt, our skilled guide and lead driver, giving us a brief overview of the area
Our trail starts from Gargia’s car park, then quickly heads up a few inclines and onto the plateau.
Road signs seemingly in the middle of nowhere
Life lessons from the skidoo seat
The road meanders along the entire landscape; an endless expanse of white, merging with the cerulean skies.
Driving along, I’m thinking that going off the track will be unsteady and difficult, so I have been following the trail. But Snorre says it’s the other way around. ‘Get off the tracks,’ he says. ‘Get onto the untouched snow. Form your own trail. It’s much easier going.’ Turns out, he’s right. And as we continue, I can’t help but think that’s a good metaphor for life in general.
Don’t follow in the tracks of others. Forge your own trail. It’s much easier going. (And much more fun.)
After 27.1 km of wide open road, we stop for lunch at cosy Suolovuopmi Lodge, where we hang out with this beauty –
– have delicious bread straight from the oven –
– and equally delicious fish soup, with Arctic char and Kamchatka crab.
This pleases me, as it has been a lot of reindeer on the menu lately.
It is about the journey, not the destination.
However cosy at Suolovuopmi, and however yummy the fish soup, this day is about the journey, not the destination. Nor is it about going as fast as possible (although, gotta admit, that is part of the fun). The snowmobile is simply a means to get even further out in nature. Transportation. Going back, we switch. Annette is now the designated driver, and I lean back and snap photos until my fingers freeze.
We’re now heading into the blue hour. I love that magic time of day, after the sun has veered a good ways below the horizon. All is quiet. Quiet as falling snow. Winter silence is not like any other silence. The complete lack of sound seems to go straight into your core, where it transforms into an inner silence.
Blue hour. Full moon. White, vast wilderness. Winter’s perfect calm.
Until we fire up these babies once more.
Along the way, we pass local lad, Kenneth Breivik, out ice fishing on this lovely Saturday afternoon. We stop for a chat and he shares his bag of sweets around.
The return journey seems to be much quicker than going out. (Doesn’t it always?) Soon we’re back at Gargia Lodge. Too soon. With a tinge of regret, we switch off the engines for the last time.
- Snowmobiling season in the Arctic is from November to May (plenty of time still, peeps)
- Minimum age is 16; driving license for car or moped is required
- Day- and half-day tours are available, or, if you’re a group, Gargia can set up a bespoke tour for you.
- Just like the ice hotel, snowmobiling comes at a cost. And also just like the ice hotel, taking into consideration what goes into running an operation like this, prices are fair. They include pick-up and drop-off in Alta, thermal suit, mittens, winter boots and helmet, an experienced guide, your own fully fuelled snowmobile, lunch and coffee/tea.
- If you’d like, you can also get up close with huskies at no extra cost. Co-owner of Gargia, Sølvi Monsen, is an experienced musher, and has participated many times in Finnmarksløpet (similar to Iditarod in Alaska). Trail dog sledding is also possible: day trips and overnight trips available.
- You can spend the night at one of 12 rooms at Gargia Lodge, each distinctive, all warm and comfortable. And we’re in Arctic Norway, so of course there’s a sauna and an outdoor jacuzzi.
Photo by Alltid Reiseklar
Disclosure: The Nordic Escape and I travelled to Alta to hang out with our blogger colleague Alltid reiseklar and to hopefully see Aurora Borealis. Then momentum (i.e. Ann-Mari) happened, and Gargia Lodge very kindly invited us to try their snowmobile safari on the Finnmarksvidda Plateau. As always, every word, every thought, every opinion is mine, all mine. Otherwise, this would be meaningless. Oh, and those Northern Lights? ‘Fraid not. Aurora was as elusive as ever. So we have a good excuse to return.