This sport is a Canadian invention, having been jump-started by Bombardier's invention of the Ski-Doo snowmobile. It became a major recreational sport in the mid-sixties, and has become a great family winter sport. Today's snowmobiles are quieter, more stable, and more reliable than the early snowmobiles, and some models are downright luxurious, with foot and snack warmers aboard.
To drive a snowmobile, remember that you throttle (accelerate) with your right hand and brake with your left. You straddle the seat cushions, and rest your feet on the running boards, letting your legs absorb the bounces on the bumps. Today's snowmobiles can go as fast as 100 km/h, though you do not want to go at speeds beyond 50 km/h if you wish to see the natural terrain around you.
For safety, when snowmobiling, stick to marked/tracked trails, carry emergency food & fuel, and if in the backcountry, carry emergency transceivers.
To go snowmobiling you need a snowmobile, and a truck or trailer to carry it. You do not need a licence to drive a snowmobile, but the vehicle must be registered with the provincial Motor Vehicle Branch. Snowmobiles can cost from $4000 to $15000, with trailers starting at $400. Fortunately in good snowmobiling areas, you can rent them by the hour or by the day. You should also wear warm winter clothing, like a one or two-piece snowmobile (or ski) suit, goggles and helmet.
The best spots near Vancouver are Brome Ridge, on Highway 99 about 11 km north of Squamish, Callaghan Lake just to the south-west of Whistler, and Rutherford Creak between the town of Pemberton (15 km past Whistler) and the same-named icefield. There is a designated snowmobile area at Cypress Bowl.
East of Vancouver there are several good spots. Pasayten River Valley is off Hwy 3, about 2 km past the east entrance of Manning Park. Copper Creek is also on Hwy 3, about 8 past the east entrance of Manning Park. The Cascade Recreation Area is 48 km past Manning Park on Hwy 3 (go left on Whipsaw Rd and a further 25 km). The Coquihala has great snowmobiling about 4 km past the toll-gates.
Contact th BC Snowmobiling Federation in Valemount (604 566-4627)
Thrre are snowmobile tour operators in Whistler & Pemberton, Burnaby, Valemont and Hope.