Today I went on my first ever dogsled ride. I woke up early and drove to the Snowy Owl Dogsled Tours, located downtown Canmore.
Keep in mind, for someone who’s overcome what I have in the last 5yrs, to even be as close to those dogs as I was was amazing.
The difference? You could clearly tell all the dogs were loved. Throughout our orientation, I watched the trainers walk up and down the ranks of dogs petting their bellies, scratching their ears, telling them they’re “good dogs.” I must admit this is quite different to the story tale vision of dogsledding, when people used whips and screamed “Mush!”
(Apparently, mush is too soft of a sound to say for a command, instead to make the dogs go we yell “hike! The harsh “I” sound rings more distinct in the dogs ears.
They also had red bandanas on the dogs that were “shy” and people were warned not to pet them. I was so incredibly appreciative of this action. They had prepared for dogs who’s temperament might not have been as in tune as some of the other dogs, as a dog bite victim I can’t tell you how much I respect this. (And people please understand, you’re told not to pet them for your safety, not to punish the dog. Offer your encouragement vocally to the bandana’d dog and carry on to the next and pet it instead. )
We lined up along about 40huskies and 3 trainers and were distributed to our sleds. I was designated the front sled and was told id be “driving the sled,” along side the head instructor for our ride.
Instantly my anxiety kicked in and I came up with every excuse you can think of to not have to drive the sled. In the end, instructor Nicole Lewis won me over with her lovely smile and encouragement and before you knew it, her and I were literally leading the pack.
You have no idea how invigorating it feels to be pulled by a team of dogs and leading 4 other teams, and on top of that we were speeding through the snow in the mountain peaks of some of the most picturesque scenery in the world.
Nicole taught me how to brake, turn, encourage the dogs to go faster, and showed very quickly how she could assert herself as alpha and have the dogs listen to her every word, simply by her tone. It was an amazing experience and I also found out shes a writer as well! When I get a link to her articles I will provide it.
Half way through the trip we stopped to switch sleds so I could sit in a basket and take photos (which is what I attempted to protest to do in the first place before Nicole managed to convert my temper tantrum into actual productiveness.)
I must admit you can tell the difference when I switched to mum and dad driving the sled as opposed to Nicole, but then again shes the expert 🙂 and mum and dad had it down pretty good by the end… However, there was at least twice I thought they were going to tip us over!
At the very end we sat by a campfire and received our pictures taken by the professional photographer on site. She did an amazing job. Featured below is a shot of me and my beautiful little cousin Daisy, and our gorgeous team lead instructor Nicole Lewis.
Keep in mind, Snowy Owl tours are the ONLY crew that give you the chance to drive your own sled, and to be completely honest had a group of fun-loving, all round wonderful people, I can’t go on enough about how amazing my experience was. The season is almost up but if it’s something you’ve been thinking of doing make sure you make a booking and go check it out! It’s truly a life changing experience.
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