Dog Sledding

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding is fun. And cold. That’s pretty much the only “FAN FACT” I can give you about it. Ok another one: the practice emerged as a transport 3000 years ago in Arctic. Or 9000 years ago. These scientists can never agree on anything. 

Getting there

The action described below took place in Svalbard. You jump in the car and drive 10 min away from Longyearbyen. And arrive to this place called Svalbard Villmarkssenter, where they breed their own huskies and function all year round: with dogs pulling sleds in winter, and carts on wheels in summer. Don’t worry, unlike humans, dogs love their work and are their happiest when dragging you around.

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Once they see tourists, the dogs start going loud and crazy. Yes, because they want to attack you. And lick you to death.

playing with huskies

So after you get acquainted with the dogs and had enough playtime with them, the ones who will pull your sled are chosen. They all want to be picked, and loudly enunciate it. Yet only about 8 will get selected per sled. Depending on your weight of course and how fast you want to go.

best friend

Two people fit in a sled: one musher and one passenger. Musher is standing and mushing (“driving” the dogs) and passenger is sitting and freezing his ass off. Then they swap places. Of course, you can always lose the passenger and go solo.

dog sleds

A thing you probably didn’t know is that there’s a whole “hierarchy” of sled dogs, and for a successful team you need an assembly of leader dogs, team dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. And it’s all serious business. The leaders let the others know who’s the boss… by biting those who dare to question their authority. 

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It looks something like this:

  • The Lead Dogs: are your “navigation”. They follow your commands, find the trail and set the pace.
  • The Swing Dogs: are the “steering mechanism” and help you turn.
  • The Wheel Dogs: are the strongest ones in the team and are placed directly in front of the sled. They are your “rear wheels” if you will.

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Once your dogs are harnessed, you get a brief introduction on how to mush and off you go. It’s quite an experience. Endless white plains, reflecting the light of the setting sun, and nothing but the sound of your sled swooshing through the snow.

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And after three hours, with your frozen fingers you finally manage to open a bottle of something meant to keep you warm… But you don’t feel your face anymore and can’t place it to your mouth. You can’t move your toes either. A scary thought creeps in if you still even have them. That’s when you know it’s time to go home.

running to the shelter

This was just a half-day trip coming to an end. But you can extend it up to 10 days or so. Sleeping in tents under the sky and really roughing it. But for me it was enough fun for one day in -30 degrees C. And so I ran to the cabin as soon as we stopped, to count if I still had 10 of them all. 

saving feet

No I’m not being eaten alive, or having a foot fetish kick.. we’re saving my toes! That kind couple saw me crying (and laughing at the same time) in that wooden shack and offered help. And helped it did, still can wiggle them all.

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