Snowmobiling in Alaska, or as the locals call it, snow machining, is more than a pastime; it’s a way of life. When the snow falls and the roads close, the snowmobile becomes a lifeline to many remote communities. The winter snow transforms rugged terrain into an interconnected network of trails and frozen highways. Snow machines in Alaska are used to get to the store, school, hunt, or gather firewood.
For Alaskans, it’s a crucial tool, enabling them to navigate rugged frozen terrain and connect with distant communities. For visitors, it’s a thrilling way to embrace the local lifestyle, and experience a frozen Alaskan winter wonderland up close and personal. Join us as we share the best spots, times, and tours for getting the most out of snowmobiling in Alaska.
Why Trust Us
AlaskaExplored is THE DESTINATION for all things Alaska. Wether you’re planning an epic snowmobiling adventure in Alaska or if you’re just curious about the last frontier, we got you covered. Here at AlaskaExplored.com you’ll find expert tips, detailed guides, stunning photographs, and so much more.Together AlaskaExplored has more than twenty years of experience traveling, working, and exploring the beautifully rugged, 49th state. Working in television has taken us all around the world, and no place more than Alaska. During our time here we’ve documented countless stories from every corner and crevasse of the state. We’ve helped showcase the grandeur of this wild place for National Geographic, Discovery, Disney, Animal Planet, and more. Now we want to share our knowledge and real life experiences with you!
My Experience with Snowmobiling in Alaska
The goal is the same for most of the shows I film in Alaska, show an honest depiction of life in the last frontier. So wether thats traveling to a frozen lake to ice fish, or to just gather and haul firewood; Alaskans use their snow machines the way most of us use cars. So in order to keep up and tell the stories we want to tell, we have to be proficient snowmobilers. There’s just no other option. And just like the locals, our snowmobiles are tools.
First and foremost they are our transportation. They’re also how we haul our cameras and personal gear into the wilderness. They provide warm and a good seat to have lunch on, and they’re a pretty fun medium to help tell our stories. Using a drone to film someone rip through the snow is probably one of my favorite things to shoot. Snowmobiling in Alaska is a love/hate relationship however.
On a short winter day in Alaska, you only have a few hours of daylight to capture the story you’re trying to tell, and when you get a snow machine stuck in deep snow, it eats up valuable time. I’ve spent f#$king hours digging out snowmobiles in Alaska. Usually the new guys, but certainly my own, more than a few times. They don’t always start up in the frigid mornings, they’re easy to crash, and always running out of gas. But snowmobiles are an integral part of life in Alaska and my experience working there.
Table of Contents: Snowmobiling in Alaska
Table of contents
Snowmobiling in Alaska
When to Go Snowmobiling in Alaska
Obviously snowmobiling in Alaska is a wintertime sport, so for Alaska most of the year. However, depending on where you are in the state there might not be enough snow on the ground to get out and rip around. Typically snowmobiling season in Alaska spans from late fall to early spring, but Alaska weather can be weird and unpredictable.
I was working in McCarthy, Alaska a few years back and wasn’t able to get on a snow machine till December, which is highly unusual. So wherever you’re planning on going snowmobiling in Alaska, just keep an eye on local weather forecasts and trail conditions, ensuring you catch the trails at their prime. For daily updates on snow depth check out the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. NOAA website
Where to Go Snowmobiling in Alaska
Alaska has an abundance of fantastic snowmobiling opportunities. The state’s diverse terrain caters to riders of all skill levels. Rent a snow machine and chart your own adventure, or you can book a tour at most of these popular destinations. Keep scrolling for a list of Snowmobiling tours.
- Chugach State Park: Home to vast backcountry trails, Chugach State Park offers snowmobilers an unrivaled playground. Navigate through snow-covered forests, with stunning views of the Chugach Mountains.
- Mat-Su Valley: The Mat-Su Valley unveils a winter wonderland for snowmobiling enthusiasts. Frozen lakes, and the looming presence of the Talkeetna Range create an idyllic setting for an adrenaline-packed journey.
- Fairbanks: The interior city of Fairbanks offers an array of groomed trails and open spaces. Explore the expansive forests or book a night ride and witness the northern lights.
- Nome: For a unique snowmobiling experience, head to Nome and ride on the frozen Bering Sea. The vast tundra landscapes and frozen coastal expanses are certainly unique.
- Hatcher Pass: A true gem for snowmobilers, Hatcher Pass combines mountainous terrain with sweeping vistas.
Alaska Snowmobiling Tours
Here’s a list of some trusted snowmobile tour companies in and around Alaska.
Glacier City Snowmobile Tours: Girdwood/Chugach Mountains/Anchorage/Denali/Iditarod
3.5hr trips to multi day excursions available
Rates: from $275/adult
Rods Alaskan Guide Service: Fairbanks
1hr trips + time add ons/ ice fishing / aurora viewing
Rates: from $149/adult
Alaska Wild Guides: Girdwood/Denali/Turnagain Arm
4hr trips to multi day excursions + dog sled add ons
Rates: from $275/adult
Kenai Backcountry Adventures: Kenai Peninsula
2-4hr trips to multi day excursions + ice climbing / backcountry skiing
Rates: from $199/adult
Snowmobile Rental Companies in Alaska
If you’re a seasoned rider and have the means to haul your own ride, renting a snow machine and planning your own trip can really turn a ride into an Alaskan adventure that you won’t soon forget. Here are some trusted snowmobile companies in and around Alaska.
- Alaska Toy Rentals: Daily and weekly rentals available from $295 / Palmer, AK/ 907-775-1880
- Alaska Backcountry Access: Daily and multi day rentals available from $245 / Gridwood, AK/ 907-783-3600
- Sledtastic Alaska Snowmobile Rentals: Rates vary / Anchorage, Wasilla, Hatcher Pass/ 907-301-6232
Snowmobiling Safety Protocols
I’ve seen more than my fair share of snowmobile accidents. Bad ones too, I had to watch a fellow crew member get flown out of camp after crashing their snow machines into a tree and smashing their kneecap. Hell, I’ve crashed a few times, its easy to do. But if you take your time and follow a few safety protocols, you’ll be fine. Here are some essential safety protocols to keep in mind:
- Speed: Most of us feel the need for speed, thats why you wanna ride! Maintaining a safe speed will help you avoid most accidents. But don’t go to slow in heavy snow, or you’ll get stuck. It’s a balance you’ll have to get used to.
- Weather Monitoring: Stay updated on weather conditions before and during your ride. Alaska’s weather can change rapidly, and being prepared is crucial.
- Communication: Ensure your communication devices are in working order. In remote areas, a reliable means of communication can be a lifeline.
- Group Riding: If riding in a group, establish clear communication signals and guidelines. Look out for one another and practice safe riding distances. If you’re leading make sure you monitor and check in with the folks behind you from time to time.
- Trail Etiquette: Respect trail etiquette, yield to other riders, and stay on designated trails. Being courteous ensures a positive experience for everyone sharing the snow-covered paradise.
- Avalanche Awareness: Alaska’s mountainous terrain poses avalanche risks. Unless you’re competing in the X-games, just stay off mountains.
- Proper Gear: It gets cold on a snowmobile in Alaska. Think 0 degrees minus a 30 mph windchill. Make sure you have all your proper cold wear gear to stay warm. Helmets and eye protection are crucial.
Snowmobiling vs. Snow Machining in Alaska
The first show I ever worked on in Alaska was called Slednecks. It was a super silly MTV show that followed a group of 20 year olds that would party and do wild stunts, often on snow machines. One episode they rode their snow machines across a river, that was pretty fun. But suffice it to say, we got schooled very quickly on the proper terms regarding snowmobiles and the such.
Nobody in Alaska calls a snowmobile a snowmobile, they are all snow machines. In Alaska, snowmobiles aren’t used for leisurely sport activities, they’re tools, machines. Nobody will be offended if you call them snowmobiles, but they might make fun of you, and they’ll definitely know you’re a tourist. Which, you probably are, so call it whatever you want.
Here’s a good example of someone who uses a snow machine, not a snowmobile.
Snowmobiling in Alaska FAQ’s
No prior experience is necessary for most snowmobile tour companies. Professional guides provide instructions, and tours cater to various skill levels.
Weight restrictions may apply depending on the type of snowmobile tour you’re doing. Check with the tour operator for specific guidelines.
Snowmobile operators must be at least 16 years of age unless accompanied and supervised by a responsible person 21 years of age or older.