The expert team at Cold Fire Creek Dog Sledding hadn’t had a runaway dogsled in over two years. Guess who broke their record?
Not me exactly, I was tucked tightly in the actual sled when the Australian girl who was driving our rig slipped right off the back (to be fair, I’m not sure she’d ever seen snow before this trip). Oblivious, the dogs ran forward at top speed with no one to break or rein them in. I sat helplessly sealed in the canvas seat, able to do nothing except flail uselessly.
For about two seconds I was filled with alarm, the dogs were in charge now and I was going wherever they wanted to take me. Luckily 2 seconds was really all it took for our long-legged guide to race towards me, jump on the back of my sled and get the dogs back under control.
I was fine. The dogs were fine. The Australian girl was fine (if a little embarrassed). Cold Fire Creek’s runaway sled record however, was back to zero.
I’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, but in all my travels I’ve never had a chance to give it a whirl. Luckily Tourism Jasper agreed to fulfill my dream and arranged for me to give this very old form of transportation a try.
Dog sleds have been used for transportation over ice and snow for over 1000 years. They were used during the gold rush in Alaska and to reach small towns in Northern Canada. Nowadays (thanks to snowmobiles) there aren’t a lot of practical uses, so sledding is done primarily for racing or tourism purposes.
There actually isn’t any dog sledding inside Jasper National Park proper, but Cold Fire Creek operates 120 km west of Jasper- about an hour and a half drive depending on the weather. I was transferred there by SunDog Tours.
On arrival we were paired up and given our own sled and team of 6-8 dogs. Everyone was allowed to take turns both riding in the sled and driving. To drive you stand on the back of the sled and control a foot brake to slow the dogs down on downhill passages. To help speed the dogs up on uphill area, the drive uses their foot to help push. Fairly easy directions, but driving the team is still quite a thrill.
I was taking part in the Moonshiners’ of Whiskey Creek Tour, a 3 hour experience with a lunch break of sausages and hot cider halfway through. We glided through over 20 km of snowy terrain. A fresh snowfall the night before had left everything blank and smooth, like a black and white picture. With no other humans in sight and just the dogs panting for company, it was quite beautiful.
The best part of dog sledding was undoubtedly the chance to spend some quality time with literally dozens of blissed out dogs.
Alaskan Huskys aren’t really a breed, they are more of a category of northern dog bred to withstand cool temperatures, run fast and pull sleds. Cold Fire Creek has over 70 huskys, which they rotate throughout the day and week to make sure everyone has a chance to run.
And boy, do these dogs love running. I was slightly concerned before I arrived about the dogs- the last thing I wanted was to take part in any sort of exploitation. I was pleased to learn that Cold Fire Creek takes excellent care of their furry friends and that the guides seemed to have a special relationship with all the animals. Best of all the dogs seem to love their job, they could barely contain their excitement all day and whined mercilessly any time the sled stopped.
In addition to being fast and strong, all of the dogs are super friendly. A few were shy, but most of them were happy to be pet and cuddled
Now on to what you guys really care about: cute dog faces.
Disclosure: My trip to Jasper was sponsored by Tourism Jasper. I was also compensated for my coverage. All opinions are my own.