You hear about the Iditarod, those amazing mushers and dogs. Wouldn’t it be cool to do the same? Well, I had to chance to dog sled in Steamboat, CO to see what it’s like. Went through a company called Grizzle-T (jumping ahead, absolutely great if you ever want to go).
They pick you up where you’re staying and drive you about 30 minutes away from town. There were 6 of us going together, and another 6 in the group that day. During the drive they give you a rundown on the company and the excitement for the day.
You arrive at the site and see dozens of dogs; Alaskan Huskies. Per the website, Alaskan Huskies are friendly and energetic. Bred for speed, strength, and endurance, they are some of the world’s most talented athletes. Properly conditioned and with state-of-the-art nutrition, these dogs can run over 150 miles a day across some of the most unforgiving frozen terrain on earth. Sled dogs thrive in the cold of winter and love the snow!
We were told about all the dogs and their hilarious howling. Let me tell you, it got worse after the first group of sledders left. Some dogs were jealous that they didn’t get to go.
We got the rundown on mushing/being the mushers (the person driving the sled). How to steer, how/where to put your weight, how fast the dogs would go, what to expect and more. You stood on the edges of the sled and there were small brakes you could use to slow the pups down and there was a major foot brake you could stand on, if needed. You also had the ropes to steer them. These are dogs whose lives are all about sledding. They are doing nothing all day (when not sledding). So when they have the chance to sled, their energy goes from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds (in relative car terms). Those brakes were useful on downhills and turns.
There were 2 people per sled. One would mush, one would sit and do nothing in the sled, then we’d switch. It was a 12 mile course. I was the 2nd musher on my sled, so it was really neat to just watch these dogs. We’d also stop occasionally and the dogs would get switched positions. Why? They weren’t doing so well. It’s like the 2nd line coming in. Not really that bad, but somebody at the back would get moved to the front because they could give more power/pull more.
We were out there for over two hours. Each of us mushed for equal amounts of time. We went up and down hills (the hard part with control sometimes), sped up, slowed down. The guides were on snowmobiles and would tell us what to do (and what not to do). It was just amazing to see what these dogs do. And we were on basic terrain, in ideal conditions, weather-wise. After a bit you of course get the swing the things, like you’re a total pro!
At the close of mushing, you come back, the dogs are sort of tired and you just go into the cabin. They give you coffee, cider, stuff to spike it with… The dogs of course get all sorts of rewards (we didn’t get to see what all they got to enjoy.
A great morning. Would recommend doing this if you’re at any place that offers it. Again, Grizzle-T was top notch. Might have to go again. I also now appreciate even more what the mushers in Iditarod do.