As somebody with some motorcycle experience, I naively supposed that driving snowmobiles should easy and just the same. With only several snowmobiles for my whole native Belarus and insufficient snow depth, I decided to try it in Gudauri, Georgia. So that’s how it really was:
Already knowing that prices will be tourist-oriented, I came to several local guys standing near the sleds near the slope. The choice was quite good, ranging from simple utility Yamaha VK540 to off-trail ones like SkiDoo Summit X. Prices were respectively high – 70 lari (25$) for making one 10-minute circle on the small track, 250 (95$) for hour-and-a-half trip to some valley between the mountains, 500 (185$) for the whole day. It was OK for some foreign tourists who were regularly turning the poor things upside down and bumping into each other.
After a short track circle on Summit X, I went to the nearest cafe to contemplate and consider the budget for bigger adventure. First impressions: controls are easy, gas lever on the right and brake lever on the left. No gears, nothing to mess up. Driving is different from motorcycle and I found it rather hard to turn without loosing speed. – Well, physical laws are all the same. We live only once, so let’s go and take it for 1.5h! – decided I after a glass of hot glue-wine.
So I’m running to them. taking out 250, and hear in response: “You still need to pay 250 for the guide. How can we let such beauty go alone?”. We had different goals, but our desires were strong. Theirs – to foist, mine – to ride. So we agreed on 250 for one snowmobile with its owner sitting behind me. I didn’t know yet, what a stupid idea it was 🙂
After slipping down along the piste, we got on a snowbike trail in the human-height-deep snow. Our path was surrounded by mountain peaks, ancient towers, Georgian villages, cows, dogs – so beautiful! A couple of times I tried to leave the trail and hit the powder, but was soon returning back. Everything went normal, only my hands were a bit sore after half an hour. Note: you should steer not by turning the handlebar, but by putting all your weight in the direction you need to turn and opening up the throttle. And it’s much more difficult with a man behind holding on to you for dear life.
On the way back we decided to change places, that is – he was sitting closer to the handlebar, risking his teeth and psychological health, and I was standing behind and trying to steer properly. That’s where experiments start – and finish. One of the times I left the path to the deep snow, he, being now able to see what I’m doing, started to scream and ask me to stop. What I did. And of course we dug into the snow immediately. Here’s where you get to know all the wonders of offroad snowbike driving!
My Georgian friend tried to accelerate and leave the white trap, but only made it worse. So we had dig, and dig, and to lift the heavy back of the machine to the right and dig again until we succeeded.
He offered me to become the passenger. Haha, nope! I gave you the hundred bucks and I’m gonna use it to the full! Starting to understand how it all works, I left the trail several more times, quite successfully. Until a ditch appeared unexpectedly in front of me, passenger screaming, me stopping, bike sinking in the snow. Again.
This time we had to call for a rescue operation, consisting of one person, who could (!) ride properly and with a slight movement popped up back to trail. And here goes the culmination, and I’m blushing with shame as I’m writing these lines 🙂 While we were going up the same skiing slope, incline was growing bigger and bigger – not only vertical, but also from the left to right. I tried to move rightwards and accelerate, but me passenger started to brake. Snowbike sloooooowly started to roll over…
I quickly understood, where this all was going to, and with one jump ejected myself to the slope. From where I observed, how the poor machine and the passenger sloooowly turned upside down and bumped into a limiting pole.
Owner as the bike was swearing in Georgian and Russian, while some skiers helped him to bring the machine to its original position. And I was shamefully trying to crawl somewhere so that no one would notice… Well, of course we returned to the base together. The only damage was the broken wind shield, and they didn’t make me pay more as i was our collective fault.
That’s how I didn’t learn to ride snowbikes, but survived the full range of emotions. So the lesson of the story: you better learn how to drive snowbike with professionals, in a group, and without a guy behind of in front of you.