What do I need to know about dog sledding?
On our dog sledding trips we ask our guests to join our guides for the job of ‘mushing’. This means that our guests will be helping with the harnessing and handling of the dogs, as well as driving their own teams on the trip. You do not need to know anything about mushing, and our guides will be there to help you, but it is good if you are comfortable with dogs and eager to be around them.
Dog sledding, compared to snowmobiling, is lot more physical. You do not need to be in excellent physical shape, and our day trips in particular are relatively easy. For longer expeditions, though, you should be prepared for some physical activity. You should be able to help the dogs uphill by pushing the sled yourself. If you are participating in one of our longer expeditions (5 days upwards), you should have some experience of camping life and cold conditions as well.
Dog sledding, same as snowmobiling, is not suitable for pregnant women.
How to mush your own team?
We know how important the bond with the dogs is to truly being in control of your sled. Get to know your team. Go around the dog yard and meet each of the dogs, and ply them with pats and affection – and get a few sneak kisses in return.
Sliding on the harness is one of the hardest tasks. You have to hold the dog between your legs while sliding the harness over the head and putting the dog’s legs into the correct position. Then you can walk your dog to its place in your line, and hook in the neckline and towline.
Whether the dogs go on the left or right is not important; they will excitedly hop back and forth over one another anyway. But their position in the line is important, because each dog has a very specific job to do. The biggest dogs are the wheel dogs, giving power to the team, while the first dogs are the leaders, making sure your team is following our guide.
Once you have the whole team hooked in, it’s time to go! Our guide swings a high-powered rifle over her shoulder, and slowly releases the brake. You need to brake quite heavily at first, to make sure your team is under control. Once you get the hang of it, you can loosen the brake. Just remember to watch out for the team in front of you – if your leader dogs get too close the sledge in front, they might get their paws caught underneath.
The barking stops as the dogs lurch forward. This is the Arctic silence: the only sound is happy husky paws crunching the snow beneath them. Relax and smile, as you feel the power of the dogs pulling you through the Arctic wilderness.