"Don't worry if you tip over," says Mike, our laidback Quebecois guide. "It's really not a big deal." Hmmm … tipping over on a snowmobile sounds like an awfully big deal to me. "Normally, it's when people don't shift their weight on the corners," he explains. I immediately make a mental note to lean into every corner like a superbike rider.
Thankfully, we get a chance to practise our weight-shifting technique before tackling the 15-kilometre trail that will lead us to tonight's dinner venue – a rustic log cabin 488 metres up Mount Sproatt near the Canadian ski resort of Whistler. Mount Sproatt is one of the few peaks in the region that is licensed for snowmobile tours. And although this dinner tour only started last year, Canadian Wilderness Adventures has been running snowmobile trips in the valley for 26 years, so we're in safe hands.
After being kitted out with warm boots and full-face helmets, we climb aboard our Ski-doo snowmobiles and familiarise ourselves with the controls. Thankfully, they're straightforward – throttle to go, brake to stop. Mike instructs us to fire up the 900cc engines and our convoy tentatively advances into the forest along a snowy trail lined with old growth firs and cedars.
First up is a braking test (pumping is the key), then we get to practise shifting our weight on an undulating training course. It's an effective confidence builder and by the end everyone is feeling more comfortable about the snaking ascent up to the cabin.
Mike leads the way, accelerating into the gloomy twilight, while the rest of us follow behind in convoy. I tail the red brake lights of the snowmobile in front, the snow thrown up from its tracks sparkling in my headlights like fairy dust. As we speed along tracks lined with pillowy snowdrifts and dark, foreboding forest, the cold night air tugs tears from my eyes and plants a broad grin on my face.
We pause to catch our breath before tackling the trickiest part of the climb – a series of steep switchbacks known as the Staircase. It turns out my exaggerated Valentino Rossi-style cornering technique isn't necessary and everyone makes it to the cabin in one piece.
Soon, we're tucking into steaming bowls of carrot, coconut and lemongrass soup, red cheeks glowing in the flickering candlelight. Next is a hearty serving of Angus steak with creamy garlic mash, capsicum and broccoli in a rich meaty sauce. The food is prepped at Whistler's award-winning Bearfoot Bistro before being cooked at the cabin on a BBQ and an Aga-style stove.
Dessert is a delicious chocolate mousse with strawberries, cream and candied lemon accompanied by a cup of hot apple cider (non-alcoholic, of course).
We still have the ride down to look forward to – a thrilling descent along narrow, tree-lined trails under a night sky dusted with stars. But for now, I sit back and bask in my post-steak languor, dreaming about the large glass of shiraz I'll be ordering at the hotel bar later.
The 4.5-hour tour departs Tuesdays and Thursdays and costs $C279 for drivers and $C239 for passengers. Drivers must have a full driver's licence and be 19 or over. Passengers must be six or over. See canadianwilderness.com
Located within walking distance of the new Blackcomb gondola, the Four Seasons has spacious, well-equipped rooms; an excellent ski concierge and a lavish spa. See fourseasons.com
Rob McFarland was a guest of Vail Resorts.