mushing The magazine of dog-powered adventure
mushing magazine 2013-2014 Sled Dog Tour Directory
Annual Sled Dog Touring Issue!
mushing magazine 2013-2014 Sled Dog Tour Directory The following are questions that you might want to ask before booking a dogsled trip. The list should be modified to include your own interests and concerns. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
How long have you been in the sled dog tour business? Who actually conducts the trips? What are their qualifications and experience? What medical training have they had? How many teams will be going on this trip? How many dogs per team? How many people per sled? How many guides? How much are guests involved in handling, harnessing and mushing the dogs? What kind of dogs do you use for these trips (freighting, racing)? Are the dogs well socialized to people? Children as well? Do you have dog fights often? What equipment is provided? What isn’t provided? (If parkas, boots and mitts are not provided, are they available for rent?) Do you provide a recommended gear list? Do you have sleeping bags or comforters for guests who ride in the sled? What kinds of meals are provided? What kinds of accommodations will be used (tents, cabins, etc.)? Is the trip self-supported, or will a snowmachine transport some of the gear and supplies? How much of the trip time is used for transportation, preparation, orientation and training vs time spent on the trail? How many miles do you cover in a day? Is experience required? What level of physical ability is needed? Will there be pre-trip training or information available? Is everything available that is advertised in the brochure? Do you have liability insurance? Have you ever had an accident in which a guest was injured? Do you have all the permits necessary from the land owner or manager to operate commercial trips in the area? What are cancellation policies? Ask for references.
Tour listings start on next page.
Dr. Delphine Clero from France riding with us on a special excursion to perform studies with the sled dogs. In the background is the Volcano Lanin. A Volcano whose peak is the frontier between Chile and Argentina.
mushing magazine 2013-2014 Sled Dog Tour Directory Alaska Excursions Skagway & Juneau, Alaska Complete your Alaskan adventure by experiencing Alaska’s state sport! Take an exhilarating sled ride pulled by a team of powerful Alaskan Huskies. Learn about this adventurous sport from mushers and cuddle up with adorable husky puppies at our authentic dog sledding summer training camp. Each summer our camp is home to many mushers who bring their dogs to train for various winter activities. In fact, all of the dogs at our camp are owned by yearround mushers, some of whom have competed in world-renowned races like the Iditarod and Yukon Quest! PO Box 440 Skagway, Alaska 99840 Tel: 907-983-4444 Email: email@example.com Web: alaskaexcurions.com H/D/S
Alayuk Adventures The authentic experience. We offer dog sledding adventures from beginners to experts, from half-day initiation to several weeks expedition. Professional guides, friendly huskies, beautiful scenery in Yukon.
Barking Brook Sled Dog Adventures, LLC Come with us for a dog sled tour and experience a whole new adventure! Dogsledding is the perfect way to explore and enjoy the White Mountains and Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Our dogs are all Siberian Huskies: kid friendly, beautiful and hard working. Tel: 603-968-6874 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: barking-brook.com H/D/I/O
Hilltown Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures Outdoor adventures in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts! Mushing, Skijoring, Skiing, Sled Dog School, Skijor Clinics, Dryland Rig Rides, Summer Camps & Overnights in our new “Eco-Cabin”. Contact Marla BB Tel: 413-296-0187 or Toll Free: 888853-0548 Email: email@example.com Web: hilltownwildernessadventures. com H/D/S/I/Y
Marcelle Fressineau & Gilles Proteau Box 10206, Whitehorse, YT, Canada Y1A 7A1 Tel: 867-668-2922 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: alayuk.com S/D/W/I/Y
Listings Codes: H-hourly rides, D-day/half day trips, W-wilderness/overnight trips, S-summer demos/rides, I-instruction available, L-leased teams, Y-drive your own team
Mahoosuc Guide Service Mushing adventures in Maine & Eastern Arctic. 1 day to 1 week trips in Maine’s north woods. Northern Native cultural trips with Cree and Inuit guides. We have been breeding, training and traveling with our intelligent and devoted breed of Yukon huskies for over 25 years. All trips are owner guided. Polly Mahoney & Kevin Slater, Master Maine Guides. 1513 Bear River Road, Newry, ME 04261 Tel: 207-824-2073 fax: 207-824-3784 Email: email@example.com Web: mahoosuc.com D/W/I/Y
Muktuk Adventures Ltd. Extraordinary adventures with Frank Turner, former Yukon Quest champion and record-holder. At Muktuk you will find the friendliest huskies anywhere, superb trails, delightful homestead accommodations, and excellent cuisine. Expert, licensed guides provide wilderness sledding for beginners and experienced mushers. Box 20716 Whitehorse, YT, Y1A 7A4 CANADA Tel: 867-668-3647 Toll Free: 866968-3647 Fax: 867-633-4200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: muktuk.com D/W/I/Y
Paws For Adventure Ready for grand adventure? Join Leslie in a very unique expedition to the historical Tolovana Roadhouse Lodge in spring 2014– a gem in the remote Interior of Alaska – and the first stop on the original Serum Run of 1925. 4-7 day trips available. Day Tours are also available at our local Fairbanks kennel – see our website for details. Tel: 907-378-3630 Email: email@example.com Web: pawsforadventure.com H/D/W/I/O
Paws’n’Paddles Wilderness Tours Rugged wilderness, happy huskies, expert guides and beautiful Northern Saskatchewan scenery promise an unforgettable adventure. Drive your own sled, travel off the beaten path, camp out in a heated wall tent and meet Miriam Koerner – one of Mushing Magazine’s regular contributors. Box 652, Air Ronge, Saskatchewan, Canada S0J 3G0 Tel: 306-425-3111 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: pawsandpaddles.com D/W/I/Y
Salmon Berry Tours Alaska dog sledding tours available year-round! Get the ultimate experience with Iditarod champion dog teams on our fully-guided day tours. Transportation is included, and custom adventures are available! Salmon Berry Tours 515 W 4th Avenue Anchorage, AK 99501 www.salmonberrytours.com 1-888-878-3572 LOCAL 278-3572
Sirius Sled Dogs Run with the big dogs under the Northern Lights or in the light of day! Midnight dog sled rides under the aurora with dinner afterwards in our cozy cabin. Day tours offer expansive views and exciting trails right from our home northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Timberland Dog Sled Tours Meet your guide, 40 year racing veteran Denis Rozon. Then, enjoy your ride at our year round tour facility, 45 minutes from Ottawa-Gatineau. Summer tours and fall dryland training/lessons are also available on site at the Bristol Dryland Race Course.
Email: siriussleddogs.net@gmail. com Web: www.siriussleddogs.net H/D/S/I/Y
Tel: 819-647-3185 Email: email@example.com Web: timberlandtours.ca facebook.com/TimberlandTours D/S/I/Y
Sled Dog Adventures Premier sleddog tours, including rides, mushing school, overnights and beyond, in the Interior of Alaska. Long-time Alaskans guiding with our amazing, furry partners since 1985. October-April. Arctic gear provided. Email: dogmushing@mosquitonet. com Web: sleddogadventures.com H/D/W/I/Y
Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Dog sled tours from 2 hours to 2 days with an over night and even moonlight! Exclusive, signature packages available! 109 829 10th Street Canmore, AB T1W 0C3, Canada Tel: 1-888-311-6874 or 403-678-4369 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: snowyowltours.com H/D/S/I/Y
Valley Snow Dogz Fun, educational sled dog rides by daylight, moonlight and headlight. A family of passionate mushers and their lovable huskies creating memories for individuals, families, groups and special occasions. Offering Fall wheeled rides. Waterville Valley Region and Squam Lake NH. Tel: 603-340-2390 Email: email@example.com Web: valleysnowdogz.com
Wolfsong Adventures in Mushing Bayfield, Wisconsin. Small group sizes, great trails, and friendly, happy Siberian Huskies are Wolfsong’s secret to an experience few others can offer. Wolfsong offers 2.5 hour, 4 hour and Winter Camping trips with discounted weekdays and group rates. We always have snow! Tel: 800-681-9746 or 715-779-5561 Web: wolfsongadventures.com D/W/I/Y
beginner basics By Miki and Julie Collins
Adventure Touring: An Educational Sensation The fastest way to learn a new skill is to immerse yourself completely. If you’ve been mushing for a year or even 10 years, you could be at a level where you might benefit immensely by doing a mushing tour with a reliable outfit.
n addition to the challenge of driving different dogs and a new sled on unfamiliar trails, you can observe, ask questions and try new methods. Whether you run dogs on local trails from the outfitter’s back yard, or do a multi-day tour in a magnificent wilderness, you’ll come away with open eyes and fresh ideas. While these tours may sound expensive, you know how much good dog food costs. Add that to year-round maintenance, advertising, insurance, transportation and equipment, and you may feel lucky outfitters can afford to offer tours at all! Finding a Tour Mushing tours are advertised in magazines such as Mushing, as well as on the Internet. You can sometimes find them listed in state and local brochures that advertise to tourists. Inquiring among mushing friends or at local musher’s meets can yield good leads, too. When deciding where to go, consider whether you can afford to travel long distances (the Canadian Arctic? Scandinavia?) and whether you’re looking for the adrenalinpumping adventures of the wilderness or the calmer, more predictable homebased tours. Also consider the time of year you wish to travel. Milder climates might offer better conditions in midwinter, while as you gain in latitude and elevation the mushing is better in February, March or even April. In severe climates, weather can cause delays, discomfort and itinerary
changes, but with the long nights you’ll have more time for evening questions and spotting the northern lights. You really have to do your homework when choosing an outfitter, especially for wilderness treks that are inherently more challenging and less safe. Nita Fowler of Fairbanks, who provides hour-long and overnight tours, said emphatically, “Don’t pick a website and just go!” Look for a tour company that has been in the business for decades and that uses experienced guides. An inexperienced guide might be well trained, but years of work will provide true expertise which is critical in wilderness settings. An unqualified guide may be unable to control the dogs, find the trail, provide comfortable winter camps or care for the clients. You also wdoes ant to find a guide who is passionate about his or her work, not just in it for the money. As a bonus, if you can find a guide with 20 or 30 years in the business, you’re far more likely to receive wellrounded, intelligent answers to your questions. These folks will have some great stories to tell, too! (A younger guide who accompanies the head guide offer some advantages, such as enthusiasm and strength, and often a greater interest in keeping up with new techniques.) Once you’ve narrowed down your selections, check out their reputations carefully, especially if you’re planning a multi-day wilderness tour where unreliable guides can make the experience dangerous as well as less pleasant. Businesses with decades of
experience and low employee turnover usually reflect reliability, as do those that have won awards from tourist and travel associations. On-line research can yield interesting results that may range from gushing personalexperience stories to citations for animal cruelty. When Iditarod racer Aliy Zirkle runs wilderness tours, she asks permission to give her clients’ contact information to prospective guests. She encourages new guests to contact several previous clients that traveled on different years, and ask what the tour was like, how professionally it was run, and how physically demanding they found it. Do be wary of anyone who is unwilling to offer references. Make sure the company is insured, and think about buying personal trip insurance too. Another consideration is whether you want to travel with a professional racer who sometimes sidelines a tourist business, or if you choose a musher who specializes in touring. If you race or want to race, especially the wilderness races, you can get specific advice from a professional racer. If you choose a strictly tourist business, you’re more likely to run calm, easy-going dogs who’ve been selected for their people skills as much as their working ability, and who become intimately familiar with the routine and the trails. Of course, some racers do have really laidback dogs. Other racers may offer tours but don’t personally guide the trips. Some strictly-touring operators do use intense, energetic dogs from racing
Clockwise from top: A dog team running into a group of caribou on the Northern Denali National Park Additions/Stampede Corridor Dog teams mushing up Gorge Creek with Denali in the background Tundra flats in the northern Denali National Park additions with blowing snow Dog teams on Thorofare Pass All photos courtesy of Jon Nierenberg, EarthSong Lodge, Denali Dog Sled Expeditions Healy, AK www.earthsonglodge.com
kennels, or borrow assorted dogs from various places. If you choose a business run by a well-known musher, find out whether that person will personally lead your tour. These folks are usually extremely busy and focused on maintaining their racing careers, so they may hire guides and handlers to run some tours. It’s your responsibility to ask as many questions as possible to avoid unpleasant surprises. Who owns the dogs? Were they raised together in this yard? Do they primarily race or tour? Have they done these tours frequently? Do they act professionally in the team, and with strange teams? Do they perform well in bad trail conditions? What speed do they cruise at? Do they rest quietly during stops? How big are they? Can you easily lead them to the sled? Can they be turned loose? While both race dogs and work dogs can do well in touring teams if trained and socialized properly, choosing a type that suits your own temperament will increase your enjoyment. What kind of terrain will you be traveling over? Are there challenging stretches such as steep mountains, twisty, brushy trails, ice bridges, glaciers or frequent overflow? Are difficult areas marked, or do the guides stop to help mushers along? Study all available photos of the tour. Will you enjoy the pictured accommodations, whether they are cabins or tents? Does the dog yard look clean? Do the dogs glow with health? Are the sleds in good repair? Jon Nierenberg of Earthsong Lodge told us that he sizes sleds to fit the mushers, with a range of sled weights and handlebar heights, to ensure stability and comfort. Using wider sleds also makes it easier for novices to handle them. Make sure the guides who offer challenging trips will provide clients with a day or more of training before heading into the wilderness. Former guide Steven Green remembers taking clients the long way from their arrival on the airstrip to the local lodge.
Instead of crossing the flat frozen lake, they tooled through the wooded hills around the lake. This gave the guests a good practice run and, just as importantly, gave Steven a chance to gauge how well each person did, allowing him to arrange dogs and sleds according to ability. Be honest in describing your level of experience. Experienced tour operators get very good at matching dogs and trails to their clients, and your answers will affect their decisions. An operator that screens you carefully for experience with dogs and winter weather, as well as checking your general health and athleticism, is working in your best interest and can better tailor your trip and dog team to suit you. One outfitter told me that some older women may lack the confidence and upper-body strength for tougher tours. These individuals may want to start with an easier trek or a few extra days at the main base for training. When engaging for overnight and multi-day trips, find out whether the tour is self-supported, with all mushers carrying some weight in the sleds, or if food, gear and luggage is hauled in advance or transported with a vehicle such as a snow machine. (Does the machine travel with the teams? The noise can wreck a pristine experience, but they do increase safety.) Also, how many guides, guests, dogs and sleds will be on the trip? What kind of communication is available in remote areas – cell or satellite phones, or radios? If no communication is available, you should be concerned. How much other traffic will you encounter on the tour, and will it include motorized vehicles or aggressive dogs that might create hazards? Can you pick a date that might have more severe weather, but fewer travelers, to heighten the wilderness experience? Checking on the little things can help you spot a good prospect. Tours that fill up months in advance are likely to offer fantastic experiences.
Ask if the tours ever have dogfights and when the last fight was. Aggressive dogs can hurt people as well as each other and don’t belong in tourist operations, so fighting is a big red flag. Ask when the dogs were last wormed and vaccinated. Ask what kind of dog food the outfitter uses, and whether they supplement with meat; as Aliy Zirkle says, the more expensive diet reflects how serious the operation is. Ask if the kennel has any certification or recognition from animal welfare groups or government agencies. (Not a deal-breaker, lack of certification simply means the musher relies on his- or herself to ensure the dogs’ welfare. Operators that remain yearround in the wilderness rarely have access to these programs.) In addition to speaking by phone with the general staff, ask to speak with your personal guide. Let them know if you’re looking for a learning experience and ask him or her enough questions to assure yourself that you’ll be pleased with future conversations about dogs. Do they readily share their expertise without being condescending? Do you enjoy talking to them? Will you be able to (or have to) help with feeding and other chores? Will you be able to help treat trail injuries, or at least observe treatment? Will you be handling, harnessing, booting and picketing your own dogs? How many miles per day will you travel and what weather conditions should you expect? (Also, what’s the worst the weather might be?) If weather becomes a major factor, will you have alternative routes? Have the tours ever been delayed or cancelled due to severe weather? Jen Raffaeli, who used to guide with dog teams and currently manages the Denali Park Kennels, suggested that if one of your goals is to further your education, find out whether you can do some sled runs with a guide and a single team, maybe riding in the sled or trading places on the runners. This way, you can talk dogs in real time as
you watch the team. What to Bring Most tour companies will provide a list of what you need and let you know whether they provide winter and camping gear. Take these lists seriously and don’t leave mandatory items behind without consulting the guide. (If the outfitter doesn’t provide a list or screen their guests, consider scratching them off the list.) Some only offer winter gear for a rental fee and a few require guests to bring their own. In addition to their recommendations, bring the usual winter travel items such as long underwear, warm hats, spare socks, sunscreen and medications (bring extra, especially for wilderness travel). You may wish to add goggles or a face mask if you have sensitive eyes or skin. Bring a camera and plan to document not just the gorgeous animals and spectacular scenery, but also the nifty tricks you may wish to adopt, from an unusual dog house or picket-post design to harnesses, quick-release mechanisms, dog sled innovations and camping techniques. Bring a notepad and pens even if you plan to record notes on a small computer; you’ll want to write stuff down as you learn it, whether your batteries have died or not. Don’t forget to bring photos of your own dogs and mushing adventures. Even if the guide has seen so many that he or she has to feign interest, you can easily make lifelong friends of your tourist companions who may love to see your other life. If you’re having a special training problem that you plan to ask advice on, bring photos or, better yet, a video that clearly shows the difficulty. What not to bring? Too much stuff! Anything that travels by dogsled must be minimal, compact and durable. If in doubt, ask your guide. Your Big Adventure You can help ensure a fantastic experience by bringing a good attitude
and obeying your guide’s instructions. Don’t try to argue with or correct the guides. There are lots of very good ways to work dogs and if you pay attention, those seemingly unorthodox methods might make a whole lot of sense by the time the trip’s over. If you were warned that it could hit -40 degrees or that you might encounter overflow or rough country, don’t complain when it happens – that’s part of the adventure! (Be glad there aren’t any mosquitos!) If poor visibility obscures the spectacular scenery, instead of being too disappointed try to enjoy watching the dogs as well as the softer light and the hoar frost and other lovely delicacies of nature. Take a minute some evening to listen to the silence of the wilderness. This special yet subtle element is precious but easily overlooked. The more you observe, the more you’ll learn. Watch the individual dogs and get to know their personalities, and how the guides adjust their handling to suit each one. If possible, help out or watch at chore time. Note the organizing for the trip, what the guides bring and what they leave behind. Check out the equipment, how it is built, used and repaired. Although your dogs should be well trained, remember that they have been run by other clients who may not have the discipline or experience to keep them finely tuned. Be forgiving of minor infractions, but talk to your guide about major problems such as snarling, chewing or dragging. Quiet corrections are fine, but don’t get aggressive without consulting the guide. Always let the guide know if you’re having a problem, even a personality clash, with any dogs. He or she wants to ensure a good experience and can usually switch out dogs for a more compatible team. Watch your dogs for problems such as lameness, snowballs or sores on the feet, or friction between partners. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re unsure. Once in camp, although you may be tired, you’ll certainly continue
your education if you pitch in with the work. Remember to take care of yourself, too. Your guide will be happy to break out the medical kit even for minor complaints such as sunburn, blisters, sore muscles or headaches. Be sure to dry all your gear, especially boot and glove liners, so you’ll stay warm each day. Be tolerant of rank odors like sweaty socks and foot ointment. That’s part of the wilderness experience! Don’t complain too loudly. On a wilderness horseback tour in Iceland, Miki once commented that her afternoon horse had a choppy trot. The guide smiled gently and for her next ride she received a horse with incredibly rough gaits! Most guides don’t mind answering questions during their free time, but don’t distract them at busy or stressful times such as at hook-up. Save your longer discussions and brainpicking sessions for the after-dinner conversation. If you fall in love with a dog and the owner is willing to sell, do be aware that these professional canines are often worked hard enough to keep the edge off. Before committing, try to get him a week or two of rest to make sure he doesn’t turn into a hyperactive maniac! Finally, don’t rush to implement all the new training techniques you’ve learned. Your dogs appreciate consistency, so introduce new methods gradually and don’t force methods that don’t seem to work for you. You can find bad apples in every barrel. The occasional horror story highlighting the rare irresponsible outfitter can give a sour feeling to our many reliable and conscientious guides who give safety, client satisfaction and animal welfare their greatest efforts and highest priority. By combining your own research to find a good outfitter with the guide’s efforts to determine your needs, you’ll maximize your chances of having a great trip with good dogs and good people who can further your education and give you a thrilling time to boot.
Touring SuperDogs Maine's Mahoosuc Guide Service Kevin Slater and Polly Mahoney are beginning their 24th consecutive year offering sled dog and canoe trips in New England and Canada. They take extremely good care of their dogs. The dogs get a summer vacation, full vet care, pastures to play in during the off season and then a cozy retirement in their house. Here are Kevin and Polly's Super Dogs.
e refer to our dogs as Yukon Huskies. Their bloodlines go back to various parts of the Yukon Territory. Some of our dogs’ lineage was in the last RCMP dog team in Old Crow. They are big, long-legged, very intelligent, and extremely devoted. Yukon huskies are not as high-strung as racing breeds, and because of their size and strength you need fewer (normally five) dogs per team. They are typically freighting about 85 lbs per dog. All
of these qualities make it easier and more enjoyable for beginners to learn how to work with a dog team. We have been raising, breeding, and training our bloodlines for over 30 years. Our dogs have been in several movies including: Call of the Wild, Death Hunt and Never Cry Wolf. One of the unique features of our dogyard is that we have bred, raised and trained all of
Roanan 13 years old, 90 lbs, 29" at the withers He has been retired for three years but was Polly’s hardest working dog. He always gave 150% of himself. He is beautifully built and in his prime was very fluid to watch. Roanan is extremely devoted and intelligent. He ran in every position and was the alpha male until he retired to the daylight basement doggy community. He can be very protective of Polly and the other dogs in the kennel. We bred him twice and are very pleased with his pups.
the dogs ourselves. We believe in providing an excellent quality of life for our hard-working huskies. We take one or two on our guided canoe trips, and we have four one- acre pens where they run loose and play during the summer months. Our commitment to our dogs does not stop when they retire from pulling. We have a very active elder retirement community in our house. We take care of our dogs from birth to death. They are part of our family.
Jeremiah 9 years old, 85 lbs, 27" tall He is extremely devoted, hard working, smart and friendly. Jeremiah runs lead in Polly’s second team. He is quite high strung and excitable so best kept close to Polly. He is the most affectionate dog and will lick people non stop if given the chance.
Bradey 5 years old, 90 lbs, 28" tall He is extremely strong and hardworking. Bradey can be shy with strangers which makes a guiding life a challenge for him. On training runs Polly uses him in lead but for guiding he prefers team or wheel. Bradey loves to run and is very responsive.
Billy Bob 7 years old, 65 lbs, 26" tall He is a very hard working dog and incredibly strong for his smaller size. Billy Bob has always liked to “push buttons” and try to get away with whatever he can. He is very smart and leads Polly’s third team. He has a great trot and loves people.
Teslin 3 years old, 85 lbs, 29" tall He is a real character. Teslin likes to have a lot going on. He just started leading Polly’s third team and may work up to being leader of the first team. He is full of personality and gets along with all the dogs and loves people. Teslin is full of antics and looking in his eyes can make you laugh.
Hermes Jr. 7 years old, 90 lbs, 29" tall He is an incredible dog, hard working, steady, smart and devoted. Hermes is Polly’s alpha male in her yard. He has a strong presence. Hermes has a natural charisma and is one of the most photographed dogs. He always runs in Polly’s team.
Keagan 7 years old, 85 lbs, 29" tall He is a great all around dog. Keagan can be very sensitive so stays in Polly’s team. He is a steady hard worker, very calm, very easy to handle, loves people and gets along with all the dogs. We bred him with Dougette and got a fantastic litter of pups.
Vixen 3 years old, 75 lbs, 28" tall She just started leading Polly’s second team. Vixen is very devoted, smart and can be quite sensitive to things like ice cracking or gurgling on the lake as we travel on it. She loves everyone and is very responsive to work with. Vixen is also working her way up to leading the first team.
Jarvis 7 years old, 70 lbs, 26" tall He is Polly’s #1 leader at the moment. He has incredible energy, is always ready to go, very bright, alert personality. Jarvis and Polly have a telepathic connection and he can read her mind before commands are given. Jarvis is very friendly, likes the lime light of being the first of three teams and takes his role seriously. He has an incredible trot and can really move out while the rest are loping. Jarvis can be steered anywhere on the lake without a trail.
Dougette 4 years old, 80 lbs, 29" tall She is a joy to work with, very calm, friendly, devoted. Dougette is the only dog in the kennel that likes to smile when she is happy. We have bred her twice and are very pleased with her offspring. Dougette runs in any position in any team. Her father is Roanan.
Mrytle 3 years old, 88 lbs, 29" tall She is a great all around dog. She can run team or wheel. Mrytle is very friendly with everyone. She is the only dog I have ever had that lays with her hind legs out behind her like a frog. Her tempermant is very mellow and easy to work with. Mrytle is the largest female in the kennel but still thinks of herself as a puppy. mushing magazine
Donal 11 years old, 82 lbs, 29" tall Donal has been my main leader for the past 5 years. He ran swing for 4 years behind the best leader I ever had and picked it up on his own. He required very little training from me. He has a lot of energy, a great work ethic and a strong desire to please – what more could you ask for.
Aidan 9 years old, 85 lbs, 29" tall I call Aidan my “bucking bronco”. He is never still, always ready to go and I have never seen any bounce in his tugline – even at the end of a long hard day. Aidan runs wheel position and loves to pull. The heavier the load the more he seems to enjoy it. His feet are so tough I have never had to put a bootie on them.
Deidre 5 years old, 74 lbs, 27" tall Dee Dee is a sweetheart. She is hardworking, devoted and an excellent leader. We bred her to Cathal 2 years ago and got a beautiful litter of pups. She is the official “meter and greeter” in my kennel as she is very friendly and outgoing. Open the kennel door and there she is. In her view of the world all visitors are coming to see just her!
Cathal 13 years old, 84 lbs, 28" tall Cathal is an extremely hard working and devoted leader. He has never given me less than 120%. He is extremely friendly and loves to meet people. Cathal is my main fishing buddy, he knows to stay clear of the backcast and likes trout and salmon.
Angus 1 year old, 85 lbs, 29" tall Angus is one of the sweetest and most gentle dogs I have ever raised. He may end up being our biggest dog. At 8 ½ months when this picture was taken he was already 80 lbs. The very first time I hooked him up he knew what to do. He is extremely bonded to me; often just following me around when he is loose seeking my approval and attention. I will start working with him in lead position this fall.
Nanook 4 years old, 87 lbs, 30" tall “Nooky” is close to being the perfect sled dog. He is extremely powerful, he likes to work, loves to eat and can run in any position in the team. He has his father Cathal’s disposition – very outgoing, and friendly. He is also one of my most devoted dogs – always watching me and looking for non-verbal cues. In harness he makes pulling hard look easy. Deidre is his mother.
Travis 3 years old, 90 lbs, 31" tall Polly calls him “her giraffe” as he is very tall and lean. Travis is a very hard worker and runs in wheel in Polly’s team. His gait is beautiful to watch. He has no problem breaking trail in deep snow. Travis likes to challenge the older males so we keep an extra eye on him.
Siobhan 1 year old, 55 lbs, 27" tall Siobhan is the sister of Angus and has a very similar disposition, sweet, gentle and devoted. She is sharp as a tack and I have no doubt she will become a good leader for me. She is mama’s girl. Usually when I go out to the dog yard in the morning she is lying next to her mother Meaghan and they are grooming each other.
Patrick 5 years old, 94 lbs, 31" tall “Paddy” is our monster dog, currently our biggest male. For a big boy he is very graceful and light on his feet. He runs in wheel position and is quite a tractor. Deep snow, heavy loads, not much seem to slow this guys pulling trot down. Inside that giant exterior he is just a big baby. Every morning when I go to the dog yard, he is sitting on his house, looking at our house waiting for me to come.
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Annual Sled Dog Touring Issue!
Mushing Chile's Pat Aurora Austral
By Suzanne Steinert
Follow the "call of the wild" to the southern hemisphere for an unparalleled dog sledding adventure.
magine driving a team of Siberian huskies through a frostcovered forest in the thick of winter, runners whooshing through the snow. Only this forest is thousands of years old and home to
native Araucaria (translates to "monkey puzzle") trees that don't even exist in the northern hemisphere. Now, throw in misty lagoons, raging mountain streams, and a 9,000-foot volcano boiling with molten lava.
Inga Schaab drives a team of eight Siberian Huskies at an altitude of 1700 meters (5100 ft). She is on the last day of a 3-day trip to a mountain cabin, and passing by the "Pichillancahue" glacier of the Villarica Volcano.
uch is the experience you'll have with Aurora Austral, dog sledding below the earth's 40th parallel in Chilean Patagonia. Based in the town of Villarrica in the shadow of one of the world's most active stratovolcanoes, Aurora Austral (Spanish for "southern lights") provides the first and, so far, only opportunity in the entire country of Chile to ride a dogsled. In October of 2006, owner Konrad Jakob left an established career as a pilot and flight instructor for the German Air Force to pursue his other passions in life: mountaineering and mushing dogs. As a boy growing up in Germany, Konrad's interest in mushing was
ignited in what seems to be a now-standard fashion: reading Jack London and becoming fascinated with the three Siberians that belonged to a friend of his in school. Today, Konrad has traded childhood visions of mushing across the frozen arctic tundra for living out his dreams in a more 'Lord of the Rings' style setting. Intitially driven to South America by desires to "get away from the so-called western, civilized world," for Konrad, Chile was a natural spot to start his kennel. The thin country, which is as long as the distance from Manhattan to San Francisco (yet no wider than 150 miles), is defined by the massive Andes mountain range. The world's longest, its peaks stretch the entire length of the South American continent for 4,500 miles, passing through seven countries and encompassing fifty active volcanoes, many of which are the highest in the world. According to Konrad, the less populated southern region of the range and continent, an area shared by both Chile and Argentina known as Patagonia, offers unparalleled opportunities for discovery: "As opposed to Europe and North America, the land here is free and open with endless possibilities. There's still a lot of untraveled snow fields and new terrain to explore." Not to mention the fact that, at such high altitudes in the winter months, climate, geography, and terrain all combine here to produce high winds, below freezing temps, and deep blankets of snow. In other words, a pitch-perfect environment for practicing the sport of dog mushing. In a place where traditionally llamas were used as packs animals when traveling across the vast, mountainous terrain, it's not surprising that dog mushing, dating back thousands of years in the northern hemisphere, is still relatively new to South America. Not a cultural byproduct, the sport is only now catching on here thanks to the modern international tourism boom of the past few decades. One of first places you could find dogs pulling a sled in South America was during the late 1980s and early 90s, in Argentina's Ushuaia, in southern Patagonia. The hub of the island region of Tierra del Fuego, it's known as "The Southernmost City in the World." Capitalizing on the extreme beauty of its setting, proximity to nearby Antarctica (where sled dogs have been banned since 1994), and exceedingly diverse terrain providing for endless adventurebased activities (from mountain climbing, kayaking, biking, rafting, hiking, horseback
riding—those things you can do much better here in the Villarrica area than in Ushuaia, see Pucon, tourist center of Chile) Ushuaia began drawing increasing visitors, and is now one of South America's hottest tourist spots. With a climate heavily influenced by the Antarctic, snow is also common here during the winter, and a handful of opportunities to ride dog sleds now exist as interested locals began breeding huskies, and later, offering tours. As tourism ballooned, enterprising pioneers, like Konrad, who wanted to make a living with dogs and the sport, found all the right ingredients here: suitable climate and terrain, and a steady flow of adventureseeking clients. Musher Gato Curuchet, for example, who became the first South American to compete in Alaska's Iditarod in 2001, offers few-hour tours from his "Valley de Lobos" ("Valley of Wolves") kennel near Ushuaia, in addition to teaching lessons during the winter at the popular Altos del Valle ski resort. (Ignacio Escobar was the pioneer in Chile and still has a dog team running recreational and in competitions) Now, the sport is beginning to take a strong hold next door in Chile—with Konrad boldly leading the pack. Based in northern Patagonia on the shores of Lago Villarrica, 16 miles west of Pucon (a tourism hub dubbed the "Adventure Capital of Chile"), Konrad's 52-dog kennel offers year-round dog sledding activities on and around the snowcapped Villarrica volcano—the most active in Chile, and one of only five in the world boasting a live lava lake in its crater. Unlike operations in Argentina, Konrad's kennel is unique in that it's also the only place in all of South America that leads multi-day mushing expeditions through Patagonia's backcountry, ranging from one to three-day trips on the slopes of the smoldering volcano, to a week-long, expedition-style crossing of the Andes. When we spoke with Konrad, he was gearing up for a three-day "Tour Villarrica," where-in he and his guide staff (consisting of his girlfriend, Inga, and a few international volunteers including Gisele Simon a Veterinarian from France working on her doctorate about racing dogs and Martin Herbst, a contestant in the upcoming "Villarrica Volcano Challenge 2013") lead guests on fast forest trails past amazing mountain scenery, to camp atop a canyon steaming with natural hot springs. It's these winter trips, which Aurora offers from May
A lonely Araucaria Tree (Monkey Puzzle Tree) and the smoking Villarrica Volcano are the backdrop for this photo taken on the southwest side of the Villarrica. It was a late September ride with perfect sunshine and mild temperatures during the day - altitude: 1200 meters (3600 feet). through October, that evoke the sport's true spirit of wilderness and adventure. All tours, including an 8-hour option and two-day "Tour Inuit" (which hearkens to mushing's North American roots by providing guests the chance to overnight in an igloo) depart from the kennel's high altitude "Husky Mountain Hut" basecamp, 4,000 feet up the slopes of the volcano (4x4 transfer included). On each trip, participants get to drive their own sleds and team of four to eight Siberians, after Konrad provides them with a briefing in the basics. August and September are the best times to book Aurora's premier trip: a nine-day, 150mile Andes Crossing experience from Chile to Argentina. First accomplished via dogsled by Konrad, Hernan Cipriani and Maximo Junquet in 2009, the one-way trek traces hidden smuggler trails between the two countries through an "untouched" landscape featuring isolated Mapuche villages and, in Konrad's words, "zero trails or prepared routes. Due to weather conditions, the route changes a bit every year. And in order to have an authentic adventure, we always break trail with the dogs." Unlike the shorter overnight trips, after an initial night at Konrad's Husky Farm &
kennel in lower Villarrica, transportation is provided via Land Rover to the Sollipulli volcano, a two-hour drive away. A climax moment of the trip is getting to take pictures with the patrolmen upon crossing the border. According to Konrad, "One of the fascinating things is passing the border posts, which you can just barely see say 'Chile' on one side and 'Argentina' on the other, there is usually so much snow. Then, looking back towards Chile and seeing one volcano after another in almost a straight lineâ€Ś that takes your breath away." Participants drink water from pristine, ice cold creeks while camping in tents and living off of pre-packaged frozen or instant food. At least one night, there's a chance to stay in a warm cabin owned by locals offering hot, filling meals (and a dip in a hot tub!). Though Konrad assures me the trip is a "controlled" adventure, suitable even for beginners, many challenges are promised. "The temperature can drop to below 4 degrees Farenheit, and it's a lot of uphill at times. There are a few river crossings, which are not easy. And in the Argentinian Andes, one often experiences a 'viento blanco' or 'white out' that will force you to trust your husky's instinct." One one trip, Konrad and a guest got stuck for two
extra days on the trail, after an unforecasted snowstorm dumped feet of fresh powder onto mushers and dogs in a matter hours. "We were slogging through drifts up to our hips. Now, I always bring three days worth of extra food for dogs and people." It's a lonely trail, too, with nary another animal or human in sight, most of the time. "During those days in the Andes you are definitely alone. We usually pass by a secret abandoned Indian shelter, often deeply snowcovered, and have to dig our way down to the door. It's a nice place to stop and dry your clothes next to the wood burning stove. That night, if conditions are good, we'll set off on a night ride, to have the experience of mushing beneath the stars." The most important thing, Konrad claims, is that guests come ready and willing for an adventure. "At the end, you will be cold, wet, and tired, but it will be an unforgettable experience. That's a promise!" As for the dogs, Konrad's kennel consists of a mix of Siberians, Alaskan huskies, and Eurohounds. After bringing two Siberians with him from the states (he lived in Arizona for four years in between relocating from Germany to South America), he acquired the rest of his huskies from breeders in Chile and Argentina, with the Scandanavian hounds,
the first in South America, coming from Sweden and Germany. Not surprisingly, many locals were "very cautious and had a lot of doubts" of what he was doing with the dogs in the beginning. "But this is also a local mentality here in Chile. Everything new is kind of strangeâ€Ś One Mapuche woman I passed while training put a 'spell' on me the first time she saw us. (They believe a lot in withcraft). I 'returned' the spell by speaking very nicely in German (which to her, was gibberish). Now, I see her all the time and she's always friendly and smiling at me. So, it took about three years I'd say of being in the business, before they really opened up to it. Now, the dogs are truly a part of Villarrica." When asked if it was difficult to find husky breeders in Chile, Konrad admits, "Yes and no. There are a lot of Siberian show dog breeders, but not one for 'working' Siberians. So I just had to choose one of the show lines and hope for the best. Turns out, I wasn't disappointed." He typically takes his Siberians on all the winter trips. "They are beautiful animals, and that is what our guests expect. If they see a hound or an Alaskan husky, they don't consider them a sled dog. So I keep my Alaskans and Eurohounds for racing, and train my 'secret weapon' racing Siberians differently, too." Since Argentina's "Andirod" first kicked off in 1993, annual championship dryland, skijoring, and sled-based sprint races have been held in various locations throughout South America (from Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, to the vineyards of Mendoza, and Chile). In the last four South American championships, Konrad's Siberians have taken first place in the pure bred category. This year, Konrad himself is hosting the championships in Villarrica, and is upping the ante on the competition by making it the continent's first mid-distance, international sled dog race. Taking place between August 31 and September 3, the 48-hour, 100-mile "Villarrica Volcano Challenge 2013" is the first dog sledding race to be held on the Villarrica volcano. Mushers will be allowed 10 dogs in two categories (open class and purebred), and must carry the required amount of equipment and food necessary for the entire race in their sleds. The race will be governed by International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) regulations and some additional rules especially made for the VVC2013, and there will be three vetrinary checkpoints along the route.
This picture was taken during an Andes Crossing with 6 people from Argentina, France and Germany. In the background you can see the Chilenean Andes. Altitude 1600 meters (4800 ft.) So far, there are 17 registered contestants, most hailing from Chile and Argentina, with others including two Germans (in addition to Konrad), and an 18 year-old, up-andcoming Brazilian musher who is the first of his nationality to compete in the sport. This time, Konrad will hang back in the open class, while his partner, Inga, runs his purebreds. He says, grinning proudly, "she has trained them very well, and I am very confident she will take the first place." For the past five years, Konrad and Inga have also hosted game-like dryland competitions in canicross and bikejoring, both in town and on their property, for local mushing teams during the summer season. "There's a small entrance fee, only about ten dollars. We offer free accommodations in the cabins on our farm. At the end, contestants get a certificate and prizes from sponsors, and we throw a big barbecque here. For me, it's a fun event to get more people into the sport of dog mushing, and to educate them on how to treat the dogs right." During the summer months (DecemberApril), Aurora Austral offers 2-hour evening kennel tours of its Husky Farm, where visitors can meet all 52 sled dogs, learn about the history and sport of mushing, and, of course, play with puppies. If desired, Konrad can tack on an hour-long training ride with the Siberians on one of his homemade tricycled carts on a dirt track through the surrounding Mapuche neighborhood. Afterwards, everyone kicks back to relax by a campfire with a choripan (traditional chorizo sandwich) and a beer, while Konrad amuses with stories about the races and expeditions. Also in the summer, adventurous types can borrow a husky or two for a 6-8 hour "husky-trekking" tour through the neighboring national park on the slopes of the Villarrica volcano, over dried lava flows, hidden mountain lakes, and volcanic caves.
Afterwards, go kayaking around the lake or cool off on the shores of its black sand beach. If you'd like to stay at the farm for a night or two, guests can rent out one of three cozy, 2-6 person cottages on the property named after native birds. The full-service cabins are all equipped with skylights, kitchens, wood burning stoves, and private verandas, and were built by Konrad with the help of locals. Pick the Picaflor ("hummingbird"), nestled under old apple trees with wandering sheep, to enjoy views of the volcano shimmering red and orange at night. (A new mountain cabin actually situated on the volcano, for the shorter overnight trips, is in the works). While Konrad enjoys sharing the sport with visitors and working to develop it in Chile now, he follows all the big mushing races around the world (Iditarod, Grand Odyssey, Finmarkslopet, etc.), and hopes one day soon to "cross a race like the Iditarod or Yukon Quest off my bucket list." Though, "it would be great to have some of the big names in mushing here one day, too!" Aurora Austral is sponsored by Doite outdoor gear, Royal Canin dog food, and all medical care for its dogs is graciously provided by the University Santo Tomas. Aurora also manufactures reasonably priced, tailor-made O-ring collars, harnesses, and training leashes for purchase through it's website (available with or without added polar insulation). www.auroraaustral.com. firstname.lastname@example.org "Suzanne Steinert is a freelance travel writer who earned her first mushing stripes as lodge caretaker at Iditarod's Fingerlake checkpoint in 2010, helping exercise a very fat & non-competitive dog team. She spent this past winter working for Iditarod veteran Ken Anderson in Fox, Alaska."
Annual Sled Dog Touring Issue!
Mushing The Greenland Way Story and photos by Markus Ingebretsen
For the last few months I’ve been so lucky to experience some of worlds greatest scenery and trails existing for mushing. I have been running dogs out of Ilulissat.
small town on west Greenland, in Disco Bay and the newly formed Qaasuitsup district, located approximately 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. The town is actually the island’s third largest, and is known as the “Mushing Capital” in Greenland. Running dogs “the Greenland way” is certainly different than what we are used to in Alaska and Norway. First of all, the sled doesn’t have any
runners extending behind the handlebar, so you can’t stand behind ready to use the brake, or steer the sled in tight turns. “Why stand when you can sit?” as Konrad Seblon (Greenlandic name: Kunnak), put it. Konrad is a tourist consultant in Qaasuitsup and the guy who let me stay there and helped me with everything. The dogs are also hooked up in a fan, all the tug lines leading back to one point in front of the sled. All the dogs running beside each other, except for the leaders
This page and opposite: Konrad and his team of white Greenland Sled Dogs running towards the IceFjord.
who have longer tug lines and runs a few feet ahead. Scouting for seal with dog team The sun is shining as we trudge through the deep snow from last night’s snowfall. We are going out to look for seals on the ice, deep in the UNESCO World heritage site of Ilulissat IceFjord. As we approach the dogs quickly catch wind of us and get excited for what’s ahead. The dogs are tough, with thick fur and huge paws. No dog houses or straw in view—the dogs are spread out attached to chains lodged into the mountain rock. They jump up in excitement, and I happily run my hands through their thick fur. Secretly I try to figure out if it would be possible to hide one of these fur balls under my jacket, but it might be noticed. The sled gets covered with reindeer skins to sit on, and the rifle and shooting sail placed securely on the side. We are bringing 12 dogs; and one after the other gets harnessed and hooked up to a rope by the trail. The sled is still not connected, and the best way to describe the dogs would be a big ball of dogs
and tug lines. It is a calm ball though, trained as they are they wait calmly for everything to be ready. If there would be one dog who got a bit to excited, and started barking and launching into his harness, a loud “Aniktonaaaek” would be screamed from the owner. My Greenlandic is obviously not very good, but that is what it sounds like. All the dogs hooked up, we pull the sled up to the big ball of dogs, and connect them to it. In one swift motion the command is given for the dogs to run, and the slip knot that was anchoring them down is released. It’s an amazing and thrilling feeling, as the team runs in full lope, and I can just barely hold on to the sled and not fall off. Getting thrown up in the air as we pass over big rocks, and launches out over small cliffs on the trail. Sitting relaxed on this type of sled certainly takes some getting used to in the hills. That said, once on the flats running over a big lake I can lean back. The sun is warming in my face, the reindeer skin warming comfortably and I can enjoy the beautiful scenery. On both sides the mountains shoot up from the ground, straight up in the skies. It's truly an amazing landscape I’m experiencing, and
multiple times I catch myself with my mouth half open in awe over the scenery. Going down steep hills never gets old on a Qomatik in Greenland. Coming down Rosebud in the Quest you can at least stand on the brake and feel some small sense of control. Konrad, the guy who helped me with dogs, gives me the signal: “Watch your back, don’t fall off, big hill.” As we descend our first big hill for the day, my feelings are mixed, partly thinking that life might end right now, and partly that this is like the most amazing roller coaster. I hold on as best as I can, nearly pressing my finger nails into the wood of the sled. At an alarming speed we shoot down the mountain side, trying to help with our feet to steer away from the biggest rocks. Down on the flats again, I notice I’m still alive and can breathe a sigh of relief. On the steepest descents, the team falls into position behind the sled, the tug lines running underneath the sled between the runners. This way we can descend with more control and less speed. Around a bend in the trail, the IceFjord suddenly appears as a hidden treasure. Big icebergs are floating around and it’s easy to understand why this place is such a tourist
At the IceFjord all the dogs are detached from the sled while untangling tug lines.
Teams being held at the finish line as the mushers are congratulated.
A team of 13 dogs charges out of the start.
The winner of the race being lifted in the air celebrating his victory.
attraction. We stop the team, and Konrad walks the last mile in front, leading the dogs between lots of stones on a narrow trail. On a small mountain top we stop, and start the scouting for seals. They normally come up on the ice on warm sunny days, to enjoy the warmth. Now out in the open, we also notice a cold breeze, something the seals don’t like. We are not able to spot any seals, and the rifle can continue resting on the sled. Instead we stay for a long time, enjoying the incredible view over the fjord. All the time the dogs are laying down enjoying the sun, no anchor is needed to keep them stopped here. Racing in Greenland With such a vast untouched country, it might be a surprise that there is no real long distance races. The longest race here is about 45km, and is run in under two hours. The racing sleds are built in lightweight plywood and have a minimum length of 2 meters. Here you won't see any double ski poling and running like in Alaska. It is actually a rule in the races that it's not allowed to go off the sled to help the dogs at any times. To participate in
Running towards the IceFjord through deep powder snow.
the longest race you have to qualify each year, this way only the best and most dedicated mushers are able to come to the starting line. I was myself able to experience a short race here, the “3 km Race for couples” that was put on by the local fishermen. Ten teams lined up, 2 people on each sled. As the rifle shot echoed in the mountains everybody sped off and you could hear all the whips being slashed through the air back and forth. In most cases the whip is only used to produce the sound, which makes the dogs run faster, or indicates the correct turn for them. The race only being 3 km long, there is no time to waste. As soon as the teams are out of sight, we start walking briskly the short distance over to the finishing area. There is a big outcome of locals and lots of small kids who have come out to enjoy the race as spectators. As the winner gets in, people run in close, and lift the sled and musher high up in the air, celebrating him after a great race. Once back down on the ground, and after some handshaking and pipe smoking he sits down on the sled again, and they run off back to their kennel. When talking with the locals here about Alaska and our racing there, I’m met by
laughter and shaking of their heads. They don’t say too much about it, but I get a feeling they are both amazed at how long our races are, but at the same time amazed that we do it. Running dogs for 100-200 miles each day? Standing on the sled instead of sitting? The same reaction is given when I show photos from races and checkpoints. Dogs wearing coats and sleeping on straw? They all laugh and shake their heads. Possibilities for tourists If you wanna try dog mushing in Greenland, there are several places that offer dog rides. One can find most dogs on the western coast of Greenland, and Ilulissat where I am, is a great place to start. If you want a more personal experience with the dogs than what the tourist operators often give, I recommend looking around and just asking one of the local mushers. Most seem to be willing to give tourists a ride for a fair price. Markus Ingebretsen is a Norwegian musher and sailor currently residing in Big Lake, Alaska. Ulketur.com
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mushing magazine 2013-2014 Sled Dog Tour Directory
Annual Sled Dog Touring Issue!