Tucked into a cosy nest, dog sledding is the most exhilarating way to experience the Canadian winter countryside at Sun Peaks Resort.
The recent cold, grim weather at home has reminded me that this is not the first winter I’ve experienced this year and also that the first one, at Sun Peaks Resort in Canada, was hugely enjoyable. You can check out some of my other posts on Sun Peaks here and here, but the day we went dog sledding with Mountain Man Adventures was simply one of the best experiences in my life.
We were dropped by our driver at the edge of a forest, where we met up with our guide, Chris, and introduced to some of his wonderful dogs. Chris and his wife Taryn have a team of 60 dogs and have been sledding in the region for over seven years, offering 10km runs for four months of the season, plus six km night time runs, weather permitting.
Tied to lines under the trees, it’s plain to see that these dogs are born to run and keen to get going. They are alert, with some straining and barking – anxious for the fun to begin. Their devotion to their musher is obvious, and they rarely take their eyes from Chris.
He encourages us to get up close with them and say ‘hi’, to get to know these friendly, happy dogs, rather than to just treat them like an engine, before rugging us cosily into the sled and hitching our team up.
As soon as the harnesses go on the dog’s excitement level ratchets up appreciably (actually, so did mine) and, without any delay, we are off. Chris has no more than three teams on the trail at any one time and, with us in the lead sled, periodically pauses for the other teams to catch up, before taking off again.
The ride is exhilarating, rushing through the almost totally white landscape, through the forest of trees heavy with snow and across a frozen lake, with Chris pointing out landmarks such as a frozen beaver dam and wild cat footprints in the snow.
He is alert to all of the dogs in a team, monitoring each attentively, especially on the uphill climbs. Sonic, one of his older dogs tires more easily these days, but hates to be left behind, so, just a few kms into the trek, he is released from his harness. However, he has no intention of missing out on this and paces our sled for the whole run, shamelessly begging for cuddles and hugs from us each time our sled pauses, but refusing all offers to come on board.
Once back at base, and after we’ve unwound ourselves from our warm nest, Chris asks us to help feed the dogs, to thank them for their work. The dogs burn a huge amount of fat when working so, after each run, each dog is given chunks of beef fat and a brew of ground chicken, kibble and water. In a working day, Chris will go through 50-100 pounds of raw chicken, 25 pounds of kibble and at least 30 pounds of beef fat.
There has been quite a bit of discussion about the welfare of sled dogs, but Chris and Taryn are utterly devoted to theirs. They have a warm, respectful, personal relationship with each dog, all of their retired dogs stay with them, unless they can find a totally acceptable home for them, and many end up sleeping inside next to the heater. Not a bad retirement for these eager working dogs.
Chris and Taryn Schwanke
Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures
3240 McGillivray Creek Rd
Heffley Creek, BC
Ph 1-250-578-0011 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Man Adventures dog sledding tours can be booked at the Sun Peaks Adventure Center at 1-250-578-5399.
Lambs’ Ears enjoyed this wonderful experience as a guest of Mountain Man Adventures and Sun Peaks Resort.