Plunge into a winter wonderland of spruce forests, wide open spaces and wildlife. This snowmobile tour in North Pole (just outside of Fairbanks) offers an unparalleled peek at Alaska’s interior and a serious thrill, whether you take a first-timer’s tour or embark on an overnight adventure.
Great for First-Timers
Never been on a snowmobile? You’re not alone. About 95 percent of Rod Pangborn’s customers have never been on one before, but these snowmobiles handle really easily—and you get to see a part of Alaska, off the grid, that few people get to see. Tours run from about November to April.
Come to the headquarters in North Pole where you’ll spend the half-hour or so just getting acquainted with the sport: Get signed up, outfitted with gear, and then take a straightforward lesson on the machines and get some practice. You’ll then drive on your own with your guide leading the way. You can choose tour lengths of an hour to three hours, or more.
Scenery Above and Below the Snow
Rod grooms all the trails at your destination—a nicely flat terrain, with a roughly 40-foot-wide trail—which has the actual Alaska Pipeline running buried below the surface. (For more experienced riders, there are other trails to choose from, too.) As you start driving, you’ll pass through birch forests, spruce forests, willow patches, and even across some lakes. You and the other drivers set the pace of the tour with speeds that vary depending on the terrain and what you find to see along the way. That might include caribou, coyote, lynx, red fox, grouse, ptarmigan, and lots of moose (they saw 29 moose on one recent outing!)—and even mushers out training with their sled dogs.
Great Service, Cozy Comfort
Guests who come on these trips rave about the personalized service. Rod—a retired Air Force guy, who’s also a champion moose-caller—had started his career in the travel world as a vacation rental host, who used to just advise his guests on fun things to do. Over time he started offering his own trips for his guests, like ice fishing and then snowmobiling. By March 2016 he decided to make it official, launching snowmobile tours for anyone. He also runs fishing day trips in both summer and winter— and you can combine your snowmobiling tour with an ice fishing or aurora-viewing adventure.
While it may be frosty outside, you’re never roughing it. These are top-of-the line luxury touring snowmobiles, with heated handgrips, reverse, and an electric start. Rod will also get you suited up with the proper helmets (they’re also heated), gloves, neck gators, bibs, jackets, and boots. After all, when you’re toasty, you can totally focus on having fun.