yann (at) polarhorizons.no
TRAVEL WITH THE WIND
Join us on a journey wherever the wind takes us. The snowmobile zone on Svalbard is quite vast, it's called Management Area 10, and this is our playground. The best route is chosen according to the weather and snow conditions. We also look at the group's wishes and abilities - like that we travel at speed which is correct for the group and take breaks as many times as needed. All groups are private and locked to optimise the experience and safety.
From late January until early May
Can anyone drive a snowmobile ?
Most guests coming to Svalbard have never driven a snowmobile before, and they very quickly get the hang of driving. A thorough briefing is given and then we slowly set off, then gain a bit of speed and confidence in order to get through more challenging terrain.
However, a snowmobile is NOT for everybody. Some people are simply afraid of driving machines or have no desire to try snowmobiles (you know who you are). If you are up for a challenge and some fun then that's great :) , but it is important not to overestimate yourself either. If the guide senses a person should not drive, then this decision should be respected (this has happened only once or twice in my guiding years!).
If someone cannot drive, then they might have to dump their scooter and become a passenger. And if there is a very tricky part in the terrain, then the guide will drive this section for everybody.
All you need is a spirit of adventure :).
Does everybody need to drive or can there also be passengers ?
Not everybody needs to drive. But if you like challenges and driving in general, then the recommendation is that everybody drives with an empty passenger seat.
Do I need a driving license or any other special license ?
You need a standard driving license (car) and that's it. It needs to of course be valid, and you need to carry it on you at all times when driving a snowmobile. The guide will check your license before we leave.
Is it difficult to drive a snowmobile ?
No it is not very difficult - the new machines are very responsive and comfortable. 99% of people who go out on snowmobile trips have never driven one before.
Is it tiring to drive a snowmobile ?
Depends on how far and for how long you drive, and what the terrain is like. At the end of the day it is very normal to be tired, you feel it in your arms and your back. Even the guide is tired. But the more experience you have driving a snowmobile the less tiring it feels :)
What clothing do I need to take and what clothing do you provide ?
The night before a trip or on the very morning we pick up all the snowmobile clothing :
Can I take a bag with me ?
Yes of course !
How fast do we go :) ?
Polar Horizons guarantees that there will only be private locked groups. So if you are a group of friends or family, this is exactly what we like :) .
Where can we go by snowmobile ?
Do you take any breaks along the way ?
Of course we do - and we adapt to the group's wishes.
Will we see a Polar Bear ?
Polar Horizons will never make the polar bear the aim of the trip, nor will we ever promise to see some. The reason being is that a sighting a polar bear is extremely rare, despite all the marketing from many other tour operators. Also, on Svalbard it is actually forbidden to seek or pursue a polar bear. These animals are extremely dangerous too.
Do we get cold when driving ?
This depends on the temperature outside. But after a long day driving, then it is only normal that you feel a little cold. To counter this it is important to eat and drink regularly and have suitable clothing under the snowmobile suit.
Passengers always get much colder much faster as they are less sheltered by the front windshield. Therefore passengers are recommended to wear extra clothing, and even use some warm warmers (the sand like ones) inside their mittens.
What safety equipment do you take on the trip ?
We always take an emergency sledge with us, with enough equipment to set up camp, melt some snow and have enough food for about 1 day or so, while we wait for help to reach us. We also carry a bit of extra clothing + an ice drill and axe to check sea ice thickness.
We carry a satellite phone and emergency beacon.
Who is the guide and how many guides will come ?
We will only take highly experienced and skilled guides on trips. At the moment you are mostly going to be a on trip with Yann, who has been a resident of Svalbard for 9 years with 8 years guiding experience, in all conditions. But as the company grows other experienced guides will be taken in.
Is this a locked group , or will randomers join in also ?
Groups will always be locked and private. So if you are a group of friends/family travelling together, then this is exactly the type of group Polar Horizons is looking for.
Which snowmobile model do you use ?
As much as possible we try to use the Lynx Adventure ACE 600 snowmobiles, or their Skidoo counterparts. These are 4-stroke BRP machines and are really the best scooters out there for long distance travel. They are very easy to handle, comfortable, highly fuel efficient and so much less noisy/smelly than other machines.
If you already have lots of scooter experience then you might want to try another machine, like the Skidoo Renegade 900 which are fast and light. These cost a little more, and have a greater insurance excess (15 000 NOK). Only recommended for scooterboys and scootergirls 😉
Polar Horizons rents out all snowmobiles (except the guide scooter) weeks in advance. And if for some reason we cannot get hold of the Lynx machines, then we will let you know. It would be horrible to be tricked into driving an old 2 stroke machine without any warning ! To put it simple, we only want to work with the best machines full stop.
How far do we drive and for how long ?
A day trip might be anything between 80km and 250 km ! There is really no definition. It all depends on what the group wants to do, their ability at driving, and what the weather and snow conditions are like.
Do I need to take any special equipment with me ?
- Goggles (lightly tinted in February, but high sun protection factor in March/April)
What makes your trips different to your rivals ?
So many things !
First Polar Horizons is the only tour operators to only take private groups. There is no randomers who will join the join – it will only be groups or friends or family and your guides. There are so many benefits to having closed locked groups. It means fewer conflicts of interest in the group and overall a more enjoyable experience for both the guests and the guides ! I have been on countless number of trips and I am convinced this is the way forward – also to insure the best safety for the group.
All Polar Horizons trips are customised. Generally, you are in contact with the guide before the trip starts, by email and also in town the night before the trip begins. Like that the guide gets a feel for the group to understand their wishes and capabilities. And from this a route is suggested, and we go where the wind will take us. We are very flexible when it comes to where we go, what we do, when we start etc. 😊
We never make any promises on where we go, nor do we try promoting something which is unrealistic which is what most other tour operators do.
You will also have some of the most experienced guides on the trip with you, where safety and great experience are the two most important things.
Where do we go ?
Wherever the wind takes us. No itinerary is set in stone. The best thing is to look at the weather forecast in the morning and decide then which route looks best. Trust the guide 😊
There are plenty of places to visit, some close some further away. But we cannot promise to go somewhere if the conditions are not suitable on that day. But what we do want to provide is an unforgettable experience 😊 Take contact for ideas !
What if the weather is rubbish ? Do I get my money back ?
There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Ok joke aside, it does happen that the weather gets horrible. If the forecast is set to be terrible, then in this case even the guide will not want to go out.
Polar Horizons currently does not own guests’ scooters, these are all rented out in advance and entails costs. If a trip needs to be cancelled, then all monies minus the scooter rental fees (2000 NOK or less) will be refunded – and I am trying to find a way of removing this altogether. But this would be a very rare occurrence – we can always talk about it, so take contact if you have any concerns 😊
What insurances do you provide ?
We have 3 different insurances which we must use for snowmobile trips
Do I need to take out a special insurance ?
When travelling to Svalbard it is recommend to have a standard travel insurance, to cover things like delayed or cancelled flights, damaged personal belongings, loss, theft etc (although theft doesn't really exist on Svalbard ! )
How do I book a trip ?
Take contact by email and we will get back to you :) We do not want any instant booking system which is completely impersonal. Call us old fashioned but we prefer to get to know/understand the guests before taking bookings - and also for guests to know what they are signing up for before parting ways with cash. Yes this might take a little more time to process everything, a few emails back and forth, but we really want to make sure we can actually provide you with a great experience and that expectations are realistic.
All trips can only be booked in advance, to make sure everything is ready upon your arrival. We do not take last minute bookings.
Are there any restrictions to driving a snowmobile ?
No drunk driving is allowed - checks are carried out all the time by the governor. And if the guide suspects someone is drunk (it's not hard !) then they will not be allowed to participate in the trip as a driver or passenger, and no refund will be given. It is a very big offence to drive under the influence of drugs/alcohol in Norway and ultimately the guide is responsible.
Is it better to go on a day trip or a multiday trip ?
Day trips are great introductions to the Arctic wilderness, and there are lots of options on where we can go. Then we come back to Longyearbyen by late afternoon.
However, booking a multiday trip means we have more time on our hands and can explore the landscape even further. Here we can use Barentsburg/Pyramiden/Isfjord Radio/Svea as stepping stone for overnight stay (in the warm, nice diner, no polar bear problems).
It is also possible to book a many consecutive trips, where we come back to Longyearbyen every evening.
Just take contact and we can discuss further 😊
When is it possible to drive a snowmobile ?
This varies from year to year, but typically between late January and early May.
It is really difficult to predict when the snow will start to melt. The climate on Svalbard is changing rapidly, and the melt is coming earlier and earlier. Before the melt would occur mid-May, but this is now happening around early May now. So best is to focus on February/March/April.
Is there an age restriction to snowmobile trips ?
To be able to drive a snowmobile you need a full car driving license, and the age to obtain this is dependent on where you come from.
To be a passenger, there is technically no legal age limit. However, the younger a passenger is, the less recommended. Simply because is it uncomfortable for young children to sit at the back of a snowmobile over extended periods of time – they also cannot keep warm for so long.
However there are solutions: since Polar Horizons offers only private exclusive groups, then we adapt to each and every group. For example, is it possible to rent out a “sluffe” which is like a capsule on skis, dragged by a scooter. Inside we can easily put kids and they are sheltered from the wind. And we don’t have to drive fast or go very far in this case. Really anything is possible, but its best to take contact beforehand.
Is food and water provided on trips ?
Yes food and water is provided on all trips, and we take breaks throughout the day to remain focused and hydrated.For lunch we will often enjoy a dehydrated meal, or possible a homemade meal if we visit a place providing this (e.g. Barentsburg).