Because both Pete and I grew up in northern Canada, many people don’t believe when we’ve said that neither of us have been on a snowmobile before.
We can’t really explain why. Opportunity had always presented itself, and there was never a shortage of the white stuff in the depths of winter. But for whatever reason, it just never happened.
And then on our second trip to Finland, we found ourselves careening over the Bothnian Bay one day, and up and down the Kemijoki for two days following. We began to understand the draw of maneuvering these bulky machines, the freedom of tearing across frozen terrains, taking us into places that would otherwise be near impossible to access given the mounds of snow.
Snowmobile excursion in Rovaniemi
Our most memorable excursion was by night as we went hunting for northern lights. It was a last minute add to our already packed itinerary but as the skies cleared up and aurora ratings rose, so did our anticipation at seeing them (it would be Pete’s first time). We joined a small group with Lapland Safaris and I held tight to the back of the sled as Pete raced to keep up with the rest. Our destination: a picturesque kota on the other side of the river. On arrival, we roasted sausages, drank hot juice, and our guide filled us in on facts of the elusive lights.
Pete missed all of that as he was knee deep in snow with the camera set up, waiting patiently in the silent forest. He raced back to the group at one point, calling out the appearance of streaks of green, and we rushed out to join him. What he saw with his camera lens could not be seen by our bare eyes, but it was obvious a show was beginning. Our guide suggested a new location slightly higher where the sky opens up, offering a better view. We packed up and were on our way.
I drove this time, moving quickly along mostly narrow paths and weaving around heavy snow laden trees, gaining confidence with revving the heavy machine as I went. Being a self-proclaimed tachophobe, this was firmly against my nature, but I felt a rush of excitement as we moved in the dark, the frost sparkling in our headlights. Perhaps I even got a little cocky, painting myself a grand adventurer on a mission. That surge would quickly fade though, as we reached our final destination and Pete and I ended up laid out on our backs, with the snowmobile tipped on top of us.
The guides, who rushed to our side to gauge our well-being, found us both letting out peels of laughter. “We’re fine!” I called out, completely unsure as to what I did for us to end up in this position, which was in all honesty, anything but uncomfortable, the snow bank feeling like a pile of feathery pillows. We righted the machine, brushed ourselves off, and set up the camera to wait again.
The lights never fully came, once again they teased us by being visible with the sharp camera lens, but never with our eyes. We waited until the cold creeped in too much to stand it, and packed up to go. Pete drove the machine for the final stretch back, perhaps taking the curves a little more carefully at first, but then opening it up on the bare stretch of river to return to our starting point. Though the lights eluded us, the magic of our adventure in the Finland landscape under nightfall did not disappoint. The excursion succeeded in becoming a most memorable one.