What you should know before a snowmobile trip

Enjoying Sweden's snowy weather? Mountain safety experts are warning that Swedish tourists and expats are making weekend trips on snowmobiles without learning how to use them, or trusting guides without enough experience.

What you should know before a snowmobile trip
Snowmobiles in Vemdalen. Photo: Mikko Nikkinen/Image Bank Sweden
There are concerns that the snow safari business is almost entirely unregulated, with one mountain safety expert speaking to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) describing it as "a bit like the wild west".
Per-Olav Wikberg told DN that not enough people using snowmobiles had sufficient first aid knowledge or general mountain safety experience.
A spokesperson for both the Mountain Safety Council and the Snowmobile Council, he is pushing for greater regulation of the industry.
It is estimated that there are around 150 providers of snowmobiles that are officially registered with the Swedish Transport Agency, but many more people are believed to loan out the vehicles on an ad hoc basis.
According to official statistics, there were 162,000 scooters in Sweden in 2013, 25,000 more than in 2009.
"Customers expect that anyone who arranges guided snowmobile safaris will have a good knowledge of first aid, can present a safety plan and has good avalanche skills," Wikberg told the newspaper.
Sweden's Consumer Agency insists it is closely monitoring snowmobile companies in northern Sweden "to make trips safer".
Kerstin Jönsson from the agency told Dagens Nyheter that the organisation was working to make sure that all customers hiring snowmobiles were give "sufficient information to determine whether they can handle the task".
Close to 800 people have been injured and more than 80 people have been killed in snowmobile accidents since 2005, according to the Mountain Safety Council.
The vehicles can reach 160 kilometres per hour.
"It's obviously a risky activity. The machines are strong and go very fast," Per-Olov Wikberg told DN.