February 15, 2013
Okay, so it wasn’t a whole weekend, it wasn’t really White Goodman, and you can’t even really tell that much in this photo. He was better that White (you know, Globo Gym, Dodgeball, all that jazz?) and ALL the dogs were adorable.
Welcome to the world of Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours!
Peter gave us a humourous and informative commentary as we moved from the +4 degrees brown and grey streets of Canmore (meaning “big head” – its silliest interpretation – after a Scottish King) up to the snow covered roads and trees and wilderness that would be our adventureland for the day.
The vistas on the trip up the mountain were breathtaking, but the highlight of our twisty, windy tour to the top was moments after Peter announced that, “we usually see a moose around this area,” and the ten of us in the van just sorta smiled and nodded. Seconds later, the brakes go on, and guess who shows up in the middle of the road….
After our perfect photo op, Peter prepped us to be awed by Snowy Owl, the mushers, and the gorgeous, wonderful dogs. They have 185 dogs – 120 out and ready to go for us that day – and before any new mushers are able to get mushin’ they need to be able to identify E-VER-Y dog by name and know their stories.
After we received our thorough run-down of the ins and outs of driving a dogsled, the correct language to use, and how to love our team so they’ll love us back.
The guide for our section of the tour, Tim, switched out our lead dogs a few times: Sparrow and Excalibur were gettin’ fiesty with each other; we started with six powerful dogs and not nearly enough weight in our cabooses – apparently, ole’ Romeo could have pulled the two of us just on his own; so Vespa and Sparrow it was. But, they weren’t having a great time of it either, finally, we found our perfect team with Vespa farther back and Mako and Sparrow made the winning combo for lead.
I took the first shift of driving our sled and definitely got a workout in doing so! Turns out, that as eager as the dogs are to get pulling us along in our cozy little sled, they don’t want to work toooo hard. So upon coming to an incline – no matter how tiny – the driver is expected to jump off the sled runners to remove the driver’s weight and help push. I did a lot of running in giant, heavy Sorel boots and too many winter layers for a jog! Not only am I expected to help, the dogs actually CHECK that I am doing so! That’s where the “I love you, you love me” comes into play I suppose!
At the halfway point, in the middle of a frozen lake, everyone stopped for a driver/passenger switcheroo and the dogs leaped and barked with the anticipation of…more running! Boy, do they love to get going! The guides moved up and down the ranks helping capture our magic moments on “film” for us and got the next passenger wrapped up in her blankie and ready to relax for part two.
Significantly fewer inclines, brilliant sunshine breaking through the clouds, and a thrilled-to-be-heading-home team made for an energy-injected final leg of the sled dog tour!
Once we parked our sleds, we and our guides spent some time thanking and loving our team before heading off for a hot cider and a scrumptious cookie by the fire and a visit with the new puppy.
Another beautifully scenic drive back to the office for a little shopping and our unbelievable morning was complete!
And, oh, what a day it was. Definitely one for the memory books and one I will repeatedly recommend to others. True, I haven’t experienced dog sledding with any other tour companies, but from start to finish Snowy Owl’s website, employees, equipment, and dogs made it clear to me we’d made an excellent choice.
The website is well-organized, loaded with information and pictures, and definitely demonstrates the pride and emphasis they place upon running an ethical, successful, and caring business and home.
Every person we interacted with in the office, van, and on the track was well-informed and trained; loved their dogs like their children; respected the sled dog teams like esteemed colleagues.
The dogs were healthy, happy, understood by the ‘two-legged members’ of the Snowy Owl family, and loved when they got to run a sled. When their sled days are over, Snowy Owl’s adoption program works to find loving homes for their retired pals.
It was so obvious to see and feel the passion that each and every Snowy Owl family member feels about caring for those dogs, working together with the dogs, and with each other. They believe in the incredible experience they provide us, each other, and those dogs each and every day. For a few hours that Saturday morning, Courtney and I were a part of that family. I can’t wait to spent time with them again.
In short, Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, was truly lovely. Go see them sometime soon.