As a first time visitor to the town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, it is hard not to be astounded at the number of “snoscooters” or snowmobiles sitting around. They are randomly parked by the side of the road, grouped in clusters of 2 or 3, amassed in lots of 50, left up on pallets, slowly sinking into the permafrost, hidden away in hangars by the dozens and seemingly everywhere you look. Any open field would have at least a token sled, if not an entire farm of them. Longyearbyen has a population of about 2,000 people and there are easily that many, or far more snowmobiles.
A 30 second video demonstration:
A big part of this is that recreational snowmobiling is prohibited in mainland Norway (and many parts of Europe) so Svalbard is one of the few places you can use them. They are also used extensively for group tours where you might have up to 30 rental sleds all traveling together. Unlike in the US and Canada, most of these sleds are heavy duty touring rigs with long tracks, heated everything, dual seats, huge displacements (1000cc and up were commonplace) and were four-stroke. Most of the terrain within 3 hours of Longyearbyen is part of “Area 10″ which requires no special permits and has ideal scooter touring terrain and conditions – long gentle valleys and generally compact snow.