Up where there's lots of 'here' here Snowmobiling the backcountry is a 380 horsepower gas Story and photos by Chris Woodall So there I am, surging along snow-bedded logging roads north of Whistler with a 380 horsepower Ski Doo clenched between my legs. The day is refreshingly clear: generally blue skies with slashes of cloud hugging the mid points of surrounding peaks. Truth be told, I had always thought of snowmobiling as something along the same lines as driving a honking big pickup truck — with a gun rack on the back window and hurtin' country music wailin' from the stereo — in downtown Edmonton. Some people get into that, but it didn't seem to be something for me. Hoo boy was I wrong, at least about the snowmobiling part. Following Rob Drynan on his machine, this was the first time I'd driven a snowmobile. We started with some operating instructions, safety tips and a few practise turns to get the feel of the beast. Throttle for speed, hand brake to stop and lots of body English leaning into the turns. Easy! Within minutes of our start from Whistler Snowmobile's compound near Highway 99, we were high into alpine "meadow" lands. That's probably the single most important aspect of snowmobile touring: the amount of ground covered in a day allows you to experience more fabulous views of valleys, marshy bottom lands, mountain peaks and everything in between. B.C.'s logging industry has provided a bonanza of backcountry access for snowmobilers, who use logging roads to get to the interior and wide open playgrounds of powder (clear cuts) to bounce the snowmobile through. To make touring simpler and smoother for the more apprehensive rider, Whistler Snowmobile grooms the logging roads in its operating area. Several tours are available to handle every type of rider, from beginner "learn to ride" expeditions to intermediate and advanced trips that take you farther afield into the Ancient Cedars or along tricky single track trails. A cabin that once was Whistler Snowmobile co-owner Rob Meilleur's squat at what is now the Nicklaus North golf course signature hole sits by the shore of one of the Showh Lakes, providing a comfy place to sip hot chocolate or take part in an evening dinner after a day of zooming at full speed across the ice. Whistler Snowmobile (932-4086) is the oldest snowmobile touring company in Whistler, having started operations in 1984, but it isn't the only one. Canadian Snowmobile Adventures (938-1616) and Blackcomb Snowmobiling (932-8484) and Garibaldi Snowmobile (905-7002) also have a variety of tours over backcountry or mountainside terrain.

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