Snowmobiling occupies a special place in extreme sports. Somewhere between auto-racing and skiing, it’s that rare activity, like jet skiing that involves a vehicle that propels itself rather than just letting gravity, or your legs, do the work. With that addition of power, you also have an addition of extreme, as demonstrated here.
GoPro videos have become the gold standard for showing off just how ridiculous some of the stuff these guys pull off is. The camera puts you in the first-person perspective of the rider, and you can see, for example, how difficult it is to pilot around and between evergreens in an uneven network of snow drifts. Snowmobiles, however, are designed to quickly navigate over hills and tricky terrain like this — in fact, they’re basically the only type of vehicle that can handle this kind of movement without turning over or getting stuck. That’s another thing that separates snowmobiles from vehicles like skateboards and the like: they’re actually practically useful. That’s not to say that you can’t cover plenty of ground on a skateboard, but there’s certainly no situation in which the only way for you to get around is a skateboard.
Here’s another GoPro video, but this one is even more intense, because it involves some jumps. Snowmobiles require more speed and incline to get airborne than some other types of vehicles because they tend to be pretty heavy; that being said, if you get enough momentum, you can get a decent amount of air and feel pretty assured that you’ll land on the treads, since the weight not only makes the snowmobile slightly groundborne — it also makes it unlikely to flip. Unless you flip it yourself, in which case, well, you only have yourself to blame. That being said, there are plenty of tricks to be done on a snowmobile.
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Airborne snowmobiling tends to be both safer and riskier than other types of extreme sports. It’s safer because, if and when you fall back to the ground, you’ll fall into fresh powder that will soften and absorb the blow. Even if the snow is packed, it’s considerably less excruciating than plummeting onto asphalt. However, it’s riskier because, if and when you do fall, you need to get out of the way of the snowmobile, which will likely be falling somewhere near you. Particularly if, on your way to falling, you flipped that snowmobile over because you were doing a backflip. The guys in this video show some pretty good technique as far as getting away from your snowmobile in midair — it requires a combination of falling carefully and actually pushing off of the snowmobile once you realize you’ve lost control.
This is, technically, a snowmobile, but it’s a very different snowmobile than the ones we’ve been looking at. It’s equipped with a turbo boost that makes it really, really fast. Snowmobiles aren’t typically designed for incredible speed — more for dealing with gear-crunchingly brutal amounts of snow — so seeing the machines move this fast is extreme in and of itself. This kind of movement requires a pretty flat and even field of snow; otherwise, you’ll catch an edge or a roll in the terrain and go flying. You also want to make sure there are no trees anywhere near the path you’re taking that snowmobile on. Done correctly, though, these snowmobiles move as fast as pretty much any open-canopied vehicle can or will.
One nice thing about having a motor and not having to rely on gravity is that, not only can you go down hills, but you can go up them as well. In this video, the riders use their momentum and the incline of the mountain to pull off turns and flips while still remaining upright, a particular kind of trick that has some similarity to ground stunts in skateboarding and BMX riding, just with a much larger vehicle. These riders also have an insane canopy for what they’re doing; the mountain is beautiful and incredibly nuanced in its surface and physical qualities, and you can see the variety over the course of the five minutes they spend tearing it up in this video. Of course, to handle a mountain like this, you need some serious skill on the snowmobile, but for these guys, that isn’t a problem.