Wilderness Run: Snowmobile tour in the Callaghan Valley during the daytime. Great for views and sampling an interesting variety of terrain.
Blackcomb Mountain Safari: Snowmobile tour on Blackcomb Mountain at dusk and night. Great for seeing the sunset light and for the opportunity to experience driving faster on the snowmobiles if you wish. A snack brake with tea or hot chocolate is included.
Observations and Comparisons:
I’ve been meaning to experience snowmobiling for a while now. At some point I will own one. I appreciate human powered adventures but I also drive to trailheads. In winter however a lot of the backcountry roads I drive on in summer become snowed in requiring either days of travel on skis or a few hours on a snowmobile.
So, recently myself and Spring had the opportunity to go on two snowmobile tours with Canadian Wilderness Adventures. I’ll give you a straightforward run down of each and then contrast them if you are wondering which you should choose for yourself.
Wilderness Run Snowmobile Tour:
After meeting with your guide at the Carlton Lodge in Whistler you walk a short distance and get on the coach to your destination. For this tour we drove 20 minutes to the Callaghan Valley. Once there we got our helmets. If you don’t have your own weather proofed clothes, winter boots and goggles you can get those also.
After that we met our guide, Patrick, and received a short lesson on how to operate our snowmobiles. They are incredibly simple to operate and safe to turn on and off. Our group of 6 headed out in single file and a few moments later our guide asked us to do a brake check while he watched to make sure our snowmobiles were all good.
A short ways further we began doing S-turns in our snowmobiles to see what it felt like to shift our weight from side to side to assist in the snowmobile turning.
After this the real tour began. We headed out on steeper trails and had options for moving through fresh snow and bumps. We navigated some steeper downhill sections, narrower sections of trail and then headed out on a flat, frozen lake to pick up a bit more speed. This was really fun!
After this we began making our way back to starting point. Once there we dropped off the equipment we had used, in our case the helmets, and then caught the coach back to Whistler. The return trip from first being picked up in Whistler to being dropped off again is around 3 hours.
Blackcomb Mountain Safari:
The Blackcomb Mountain Safari snowmobile tours starts very much like the Wilderness Run. You meet at the Carlton Lodge with your guide and commute to the snowmobiles near the base of Blackcomb Mountain. From here you pick up your gear, get instructions on how to operate your snowmobiles and run through the tests of your brakes and doing s-turns with your guide. Our guide for this tour was Erik, who was a real character.
From here you begin climbing up Blackcomb Mountain inside the ski resort on the green ski runs. Depending on the time of year or weather you will be starting at dusk or just around sunset. As the tour goes on it will move into night. For many this will be a unique experience to snowmobile in the mountains at night.
Our group size was 6 and it was easy to keep pace with each other as the snowmobile lights were bright and easy to keep sight of.
This tour took us through tight switchback turns and sidehills across ski slopes before stopping at the Crystal Hut for a drink and a snack. As our guide Erik knew how to play guitar he played a few songs for us as we ate cookies and banana bread with tea or hot chocolate. It was a welcome respite in the middle of our tour from the cold winter night outside.
After our break we continued up and over to the Glacier Creek Lodge. Here Erik allowed us, if we wanted, to switch our sleds into standard mode which allowed them to accelerate faster. At this location we had a flat and groomed section of the mountain to safely accelerate our snowmobiles to see what they are capable of. This was really fun. We each took it in turns to do a short loop and get our snowmobiles going fast. We really got a sense of the power of these machines.
After this we regrouped and began our descent all the way back down the mountain. A bit later we dropped our snowmobiles off, left our helmets with Erik at Canadian Wilderness Adventures and then hopped on the coach back to Whistler.
Both tours were extremely fun! They are definitely both beginner to intermediate friendly. They are both rated as being 3 hours long and feature the same snowmobiles, instructions at the beginner and tutorial with how to properly turn and brake while using the machines.
The main differences between the two are:
- Speed: In my experience, we got to move a lot faster during the Blackcomb Mountain Safari, mainly due to being always on groomed ski runs and roads within the ski resort that offered few obstacles.
- Terrain: There was a greater variety of terrain during the Wilderness Run. It really felt like we were exploring the mountain, going up and down steeper slopes that have seen less traffic. We didn’t move as fast on this tour but the option might be available at the flat lake.
- Snacks: We stopped at a viewpoint on the Wilderness Run for photos but not snacks. On the Blackcomb Mountain Safari we had hot drinks and snacks at the Crystal Hut which was awesome!
Experience These If:
Wilderness Run Snowmobile Tour: You want to explore on a snowmobile during the daylight away from Whistler and feel how the machine handles in a variety of terrain.
Blackcomb Mountain Safari: After a day possibly skiing/riding at Whistler Blackcomb Resort you want to get out on a snowmobile to overlook Whistler at night, have a snack high up on Blackcomb Mountain and feel the exhilaration of accelerating across snow on a snowmobile.
Tour Operator Website: Canadian Wilderness Adventures
Price (Wilderness Run): CA$199 single riders – CA$159 per person sharing
Price (Blackcomb Mountain Safari): CA$169 single riders – CA$125 per person sharing