Canada Snowmobiling and Dogsledding, March/April 2010

The next day was even more fun. We had a different guide (Daniel) and he did choose much easier paths, so I got stuck less often. Also he did explain stuff in a slightly different way, so I picked up some advice that I had missed before. (Some of which should have been obvious to me, but somehow wasn't.)

That most of the day was nice and sunny with lots of fresh snow helped as well...

Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling

The big clouds only moved in when we were heading home anyway.

Revelstoke snowmobiling

Friday was already the last day of snowmobiling.

The weather was worse than on the previous days. While we had overcast skies on all other days as well, we also had lots of sun and blue skies, but on the last day, it was cloudy all day.

Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling

Which was a bit of a pity, since that ride was the most scenic, as we were heading along a ridge, with deep drops to both sides.

Admittedly, everyone else was driving along the ridge. I chickened out, since my control of the snowmobile wasn't that good anyway and I was scared of losing control at a point where the snowmobile would plummet a couple of thousand feet before coming to a rather final rest. (Though the ridge was fairly wide - but I still preferred to be ferried over instead of driving myself.)

Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling

But after we got past that ridge, it the trip was fun (for a while).

Even though it helped a lot that the guide (Steve again) did select a fairly easy route, I had a much better idea what I could and couldn't do on a snowmobile, so I didn't get really stuck all day. (Well, I got stuck twice, but I also got out of that on my own...)

And while I'm still not good at snowmobiling (or even reasonably competent), at least I stopped doing stupid beginner's mistakes and went into the realm of beginner's mistakes instead, which is an improvement.

Steve (the guide) also demonstrated how to drive almost horizontal in the snow and Jack, Steve and Randy attempted that as wall (with varying success, but impressingly). (And I was at least competent enough to know not to give it a try.)

Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling
Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling Revelstoke snowmobiling

But after that, the trip was shorter than expected.

Randy's snowmobile had stalled.

And it did so in a rather inconvenient place.

Or, to quote the guide, "He shouldn't stop there. That's a death-trap."

And while that might sound a bit melodramatic, Revelstoke is an environment where it's not an idle remark. People have been dying in an avalanche at Boulder Mountain two weeks earlier and the number of people who have died while snowmobiling during the last couple of years the (fairly small) Revelstoke area is surprisingly large. (It's hard to find specific numbers, since most of the statistic seem to cover the whole of British Columbia, but it seems to be about a dozen snowmobilers per year that die from avalanches there. And Revelstoke is the area of the main snowmobiling activity.)

Asked about whether he had seen an avalanche up close, the guide replied that he'd seen about eight or nine this season alone and had been buried up to the neck in one of them, trying to get a client away from somewhere he shouldn't have been.

So, in that respect, Revelstoke mountains are not a safe place to be.

But then, that's why we had a guide (well, in addition to showing us the great places, showing off and teaching us stuff...) and also avalanche beacons and search devices with the (slightly silly) name of "Pieps". (And did a short training session on using them as well.)


But they managed to get the snowmobile started again and move it out of that area, but then it stalled again and couldn't be restarted.

I was a bit surprised by that, since I've seen snowmobiles roll down hills, do jumps and generally take a lot of abuse without any problems, so I mentioned that I thought that they were pretty tough and robust.

Which prompted a heartfelt "Are you kidding? They are all junk. They fall apart all the time." from Jack.

And given the expertise with which all of them started to take the snowmobile apart, looked for possible problems and the number of tricks and suggestions everyone had on how to coax the snowmobile back to life, it was quite obvious that they all had done that before. A lot of times.

Taking apart the snowmobile

But it turned the problem was something that could not be fixed in the field and after an hour it was time to give up.

Steve intended to head back to it with Daniel or some other friend the next day, bringing some more spare parts to either repair it where it stood, tow it back (which would be hard to do, since we were almost as far away from the truck as we could be and the route back involved a couple of ascents which were hard to scale with a snowmobile in tow) or call in a helicopter to airlift it out.

Since we were a snowmobile short now, the weather wasn't that great anyway, we had been as far as we were going that day anyway, there were plans to get into town while the shops were still open and we had our fun, it was time to head back, doubling up on one of the snowmobiles and leaving the defective snowmobile behind.

And that was it as far as mountain snowmobiling was concerned on this vacation.

It was a bit harder than expected and (like after the quad tour in New Zealand) I'm much less likely now to grumble over 'slow tourist tours' in other places. And powder snow is great for riding snowmobiles (as long as you manage to keep it moving and stay away from trees and avalanches).

So while I'm probably happier on snowmobile tours that are on trails, off-trail is fun as well.

And even on trails I'm much timid than any of the other drivers. (Which I didn't mind, though, since that was something where they did have much more experience than I did.) Though I wasn't quite aware how overly careful my driving must have seem to them until Randy offered to give me a ride in the car down to Revelstoke, stating "It should be right for you - it's a Volvo."

Aehm. Point taken.

In summary, here are GPS trails of the snowmobile tours put onto a map of the area and as a downloadable track to see in Google Earth.
             Snowmobiling GPS tracks as Google Earth kml file.

Next day I drove to Vancouver. Not much to tell, since it's about 700km, so I spent all day driving.

The following day I flew to Whitehorse, before flying on to Dawson a day later.

And from Dawson, it was planned to drive north to the Tombstone Mountains and start dogsledding.

There had been lots of fresh snow in the mountains though (about a meter of it) and although they had tried to break a trail with snowmobiles the previous weekend, it was just too much snow. There also had been plans for a snowmobiling competition during that weekend (which would have left nice trails for the dogs to follow), but that was cancelled due to the snow conditions as well.

So the dogsledding was going to be up the Yukon river instead.

(I was there for the dogsledding, not for the scenery. And since, when booking the trip, I couldn't decide on whether to choose the Tombstone Mountain or the Yukon trip anyway, it didn't matter to me at all.)

So we went to the camp at the Yukon river on the shore right opposite to Dawson City and met the other guides (Kris, who also had been guiding on the Herschel Island trip the previous year, had picked us up at the airport, and Colleen and Melinda were at the camp) and the dogs.

I knew about half of the dogs from the previous year and some of them had been on 'my team' for some time (like Thistle, who had been one of my wheel dogs or Tim Tam, Paila and Arwen), so I went to say hello to the dogs.

Dogs at camp ground near Dawson City Dogs at camp ground near Dawson City Arwen at Dawson City campground City Me at camp ground near Dawson City

In the meantime everyone got ready and Kris gave a short lecture about dogsledding.

Getting ready. Kris explaining the dog sled Kris explaining the dog sled

On this trip were going to be five dog sleds, with the three guides riding in front and back on two snowmobiles.

Being up here in the North, it was surprising the majority came from the southern hemisphere. All four clients, except for me, were from Australia. Two couples, one being from Perth (Veronica and John), the other one from Darwin (Lindsey and Bo).

And Melinda, one of the guides, was from South Africa. (And, just for completeness, the other two guides, Kris and Colleen, actually were from Canada.)

Paying attention

Unlike the previous year, where there were lots of changes in the 'line up' and we were running a slightly different team each day, the dog teams and their order on the trail stayed (mostly) the same during this trip.

So, to make the list of personæ complete, here are the dogs and the teams they were in.

My team

Sledgedog: Legolas
Sledgedog: Jeremy
Sledgedog: Maracas
Sledgedog: Frodo
Sledgedog: Lady
Sledgedog: Tim Tam
Tim Tam
Sledgedog: Arwen

John's team

Sledgedog: Jedda
Sledgedog: Hula
Sledgedog: Roo
Sledgedog: Herschel
Sledgedog: Sam
Sledgedog: Jasper

Veronica's team

Sledgedog: Kona
Sledgedog: Esker
Sledgedog: Cola
Sledgedog: Nahanni
Sledgedog: Thistle
Sledgedog: Fleece

Lindsey's team

Sledgedog: Patch
Sledgedog: Pongo
Sledgedog: Cleo
Sledgedog: Kluane
Sledgedog: Blue
Sledgedog: Paila

Bo's team

Sledgedog: Drumlin
Sledgedog: Kettle
Sledgedog: Shrek
Sledgedog: Lava
Sledgedog: Talus
Sledgedog: Spirit

And for now, it was once again time to hit the road (or, more exactly, the river), leaving Dawson City behind.

Dawson City Yukon River shore

Continue to the next part of the Canada 2010 trip.

Back to other travels