It is many a child’s dream to go dog sledding in the far north. Imagine the cold that grips your cheeks, the fresh air, and the freedom of sliding over the thick virgin snow of Lapland, pulled by a pack of magnificent dogs.
Why go dog sledding in Lapland ?
Dog sledding offers a real taste of the wilderness and the excitement of sliding on the snow in the middle of lakes and forests, hearing the sound of the dogs breathing, the silence of the surrounding nature… it’s just magical! It is also an opportunity to use a traditional means of transportation, like the Inuits and trappers of the past. And why choose Lapland to enjoy this unique experience close to nature and animals ? Because Lapland lends itself well to it: you will cross spacious snow-covered fields and frozen lakes and travel through pine forests and taiga accompanied by the sound of paws on snow and the swishing sled.
Which sled dog activity to choose ?
Many tour operators offer dog sledding in Lapland. Here are several criteria to take into account before booking your trip:
- The duration of the activity: consider the difference between the total duration of the activity, including transportation, explanations, etc., and the actual time spent on the sled! A 10-kilometer ride lasts between one and two hours. You can also opt for a half-day, a full day, or even a few days in a traveling camp.
- The setting of the hike: nature lovers can choose among virgin landscapes of forests and snowy meadows, frozen lakes, and panoramic views of the mountains. Each destination will offer you unique landscapes.
- Ethics, wellness, and the happiness of the dog: if you are a dog lover, the quality of care and investment in the dog’s well-being are essential to you. If you are hesitating, do a little more research to find out about the care of the animals with whom you will share your day.
What about the price ? Prices are approximately the same for all providers. It’s up to you to find the dog sled activity (“baptism” or first-time sledding) that best suits you according to your desires, your budget, the weather, and any other activities that also interest you. On a cold and windy day which you can recall as the worst day of your life, the one spent braving the polar cold and running after the dogs !
How does the sled dog ride work ?
When you arrive, you take off your coat and shoes to put on the right arctic gear, including a waterproof suit, proper shoes, and gloves designed for dog sledding. No need to tell you that you have to dress warmly ! Samoyed, Malamute, Greenlander, or Husky, the mushers present their different dogs. These dogs like to run and are trained to pull sleds: they are robust and have the musculature to do it, and they are also resilient to the cold. Each dog has its own character, personality, and friendly face. It’s up to you to find your favorite !
Dog lovers, passionate about Lapland, and mushers are irrepressible when talking about their job. The musher’s role is to manage his team: to tell the dogs when to leave, when to stop, to show them where to go, to help them go up hills, to know their names, to understand how to harness them, to untie their harnesses, and of course to cuddle them. Finally, here are the keys to mastering the basics of sled driving:
- The first and most important rule of dog sledding: when driving a pack of dogs, never let go of the sled under any circumstances.
- The second rule: learn to control the speed of your sled. You must know how to manage the brake, especially when going downhill and making turns. You must ensure that the sled does not get too close to the dogs because it can injure them. The rope between the sled and the dogs must remain taut.
- Finally, when you start or go uphill, you have to help the dogs by pushing the sled a few meters.
We are now ready to lead a team of dogs. Sleds are for two people, a musher who stands behind the sled on the runners and one passenger. I put on my mittens, and hold on to the sled. There is no way that I will let go (rule number 1). Attention, departure! The dogs start out at high speed as if they have been waiting for this all morning. Bend your legs, lean to the left, lean to the right, run uphill, and slow down downhill. And above all, don’t let go of the sled… You, the passenger, can change places with the Musher, but only during stops and only if you wish.
C-Ludik’s advice for a successful dog sledding experience
- Dress appropriately: wear warm clothes to protect you from the cold, wind, and humidity, even if the provider lends you a waterproof suit. Temperatures in Lapland during winter are, on average, -10°C and can dip below -30°C quite quickly when the sky is clear. Remember the passenger does not move during the ride and can feel cold quickly even if wrapped in multiple blankets.
- When standing behind the seat, stay focused on the ride and let the passenger enjoy the unforgettable experience! Don’t worry; there are several halts along the way to switch seats.
- Is dog sledding accessible to everyone? You need to be able to run and be active. For example, running in powder snow to help the dogs on the way up is sometimes difficult. The sport also involves hitching up the dogs, putting them in harnesses, feeding them… You have to like contact with animals. And children are often much more resourceful than adults: they are lively and not afraid!