There is no better way to travel across the frozen tundra than on a husky-drawn sled. With no engine to interrupt the silence, the only sounds are the swoosh of the sleigh and some occasional barks from overenthusiastic dogs.
Dog sledding consists of teams of six dogs harnessed to wooden sledges, whilst the driver, or ‘musher’, stands behind the dogs on runners. The first team, driven by the guide, is directed by voice commands. Other teams follow faithfully, so as a guest, your task is to control the speed by using the break.
Dog sled teams are comprised of leader dogs, swing dogs and wheel dogs. Lead dogs run in front and are chosen for their courage and bravery; behind them, swing dogs help with turning, while wheel dogs provide the brute strength needed to break the sled out from the snow.
We start with instructions of how to mush your own dog team. Guide will show you how to drive the sledge and how to harness the dogs. The main rule is never let go of the handlebar. Secondly, you have to remember to use the brake.
If you are heading for an overnight trip, it’s time to pack your belongings to the sledge. There is not that much room, so you can leave your luggage at Basecamp Hotel and only take the necessary items with you.
Then it’s time to harness your own team. For the first time it might take some time, but you will become the master after a few times.
Then it’s time to go! The dogs are really eager at the beginning and have quite a power, so do remember to stand on the break when you start.
Important part of the mushing is to take care of the dogs. After a long day of running, it’s time to unharness the dogs and feed them. Some gentle pets and hugs for the dogs are always welcome before heading for our own dinner.
Some trips are overnight, while others return back to Longyearbyen the same day. If tent accommodation is not really your style, there are other outlying stations for you to choose from. Accommodation at Isfjord Radio Adventure Hotel or a cabin will add some comfort to the musher’s life. It’s your choice: pick whichever suits you best.