I've discovered my new calling -- as a dog musher! Dog sledding is the activity I have been most excited about since I first started thinking about moving up North (almost 3 years ago). And today I had my first chance!
Arctic Chalet (www.arcticchalet.com) is a local tour operator that has a broad range of activities for visitors. I plan to try more of them, but dog sledding was the adventure of the day.
According to their website: "Winter dog sledding is a favorite activity right here at the Chalet. Explore our beautiful trails with our own all-white Siberian/Malamute huskies. Learn some of the ins and outs of driving your own small dog team on Judi’s popular short dog sled tour. This is a unique and fun experience and a 'must do' if you visit the arctic during our snow season."
A couple of friends and I decided to try the short introductory option, which involves about 3 hours, of which half is sledding (we each get our own sled and dog team), and the rest is orientation, training, and hugging and petting the dogs! They also have half-day, overnight, and week-long trips (for those who can afford it). For the option we had, it cost $150 including taxes and photos of us taken by the guide, as they don't allow us to take pictures on the sleds for safety reasons. I understand why after trying it, as you have to hold on tight with both hands at all times!
We arrived at the Chalet and were excited to see the dogs being prepared for the sleds:
Then we put on a LOT of layers, including long underwear, jeans, fleeces, snow pants (or snowmobile pants), huge heavy parkas with fur hoods, neck warmers, gloves and then wolf-fur mitts, wool socks and mukluks. The Chalet supplies all of these if you don't have your own. Well... you have to bring your own long underwear, but they have all the outer layers! No extra charge for those.
And then we were off! This was my dog team, led by a female husky called Pippa. She was awesome and obeyed my voice ALMOST all the time, except when she got into a fight with a female on one of the other teams and dragged the whole team into the fray! The dogs are very friendly with humans, and you can hug and get right up close with them. They just have rivalries with other dogs and that's the only time they get aggressive.
I couldn't believe how fast the dogs could go ... they clearly love running and couldn't wait to be off. You really had to stomp on the brake to get them to stop and even then, they kept leaping and pulling at the sled. In addition to avoiding dog fights (which was really our fault for bringing the teams too close together), we also had to make sure we didn't go too fast through the trees on the curved path, as the sled swayed from side to side and we found ourselves bumping against trees along the way if we went too fast. At least no one fell off, which does happen!
At the end of the trip, we got our own Dog Mushers Operator's Licence (valid for life)!
All in all, a great day to be in the Arctic!