The thrill of gliding through the rolling snow covered hills of Northern Norway, taking in the beauty of surrounding mountains, and feeling the fresh snow fall around you. What could make this moment any more magical, you ask? DOGS. Dogs make everything better, duh.
With a few weeks clear of work for the Christmas holidays and already at our capacity of German Christmas markets and glühwein, we decided to head north to Norway for winter. Technically we also head south to Spain, but you'll have to check back for those posts later. Anyway, an Arctic adventure in Tromsø was at the top of our bucket list, and with it I knew that outdoor activities would be a big part of our itinerary. I must admit that even as an avid traveler/vacay booking extraordinaire, I was a little intimidated to put this one together but luckily tourism has really flourished in the Arctic Circle in recent years, making this trip much more simple to compile than I originally anticipated. A few click later and we had a hell of a trip to prep for!
We started out the day by getting decked out in snow suits and moon boots that were enough to keep this Southern girl feeling somewhat like a hotpocket. After getting dressed, we caught our first glimpse of the beautiful dogs we would run with for the day. I have only seen huskies kept as domestic pets, so it was interesting to see what sledding dogs look like: lean and athletic, many with intense eyes. I am a huge dog lover, and my first (super important) question was if we could pet the dogs or not. Our guide and his team assured us that they love to be pet, and highly encouraged us to talk to our team and bond with them.
These dogs are born for sledding and you could see their excitement and anticipation as soon as we took them out of their huts. After learning how to properly mush and getting some safety tips, we were ready to harness the team. Placement within the mushing team is important- the "brains" go in the front, the "muscle" is placed in the back of the pack. This made complete sense to us because our two dogs in the back (the twins, we called them) were hype, howling, and really pulling from beginning to end.
Any time we pumped the breaks the dogs would look back at us, clearly annoyed, as if to say "pick it up, humans! Let's GO!"
As I was totally kitted out in Arctic-proof padding, I had to wedge myself down into the sled, Luke standing behind for the mushing. I'm considered petite and I was packed in pretty well, so if you go, know that it's not a roomy and relaxing seat. You can feel any bumps and knocks, but the better the snow, the more padding for your bum, and the less likely you are to topple out.
At this point I should mention two things:
1. The sled does not stop if the occupant inside falls out.
2. The sled does not stop if you throw the anchor, if your dogs are strong.
In summation, the sled does not stop, be prepared to run in your human-marshmallow snowsuit. Be prepared to laugh at yourself.
Our ride was about two hours long and filled with howling laughter from both us and our furry friends. We wiped out once and I laughed hysterically at myself as I struggled to waddle through the deep snow with my moon boots disappearing in the white powder under me, with Luke (seemingly effortlessly) sprinting to our runaway sled, and jumping on the break so I could get back in. The team in front of us had a near wipeout which resulted in the musher in the back of the sled riding on his knees for a solid 60 seconds, not letting go of the handle bars. His partner in the sled finally heard his calls and dropped their anchor and he was able to jump back up. We laughed so hard for that minute because everything is funny when it happens to someone else, right? PS he didn't get hurt, so yes, it was funny.
At the end of the ride, we unharnessed our team, gave them big hugs and took them back to camp for dinner. Can I just say that these dogs are eating better than many adults I know? We also had a chance to meet the newest members of the pack- cuddly husky puppies! Is there anything better than enjoying the winter wonderland and capping the day off with puppy cuddles?! Probably not. I had to squeeze all of them before leaving, true story. There are 80+ dogs at the camp and our expert guide travels the world with them, competing in famous races of skill and endurance. He has competed many times at Iditarod, a 1,000 mile trek across the frozen tundra of Alaska. The guy also told us stories of skiing across Greenland, and the mountains he has climbed. He was legit. We ended the day with snacks and warm beverages around a campfire, and were able to ask questions about his sledding expeditions, caring for the dogs, and all things Arctic. Again I had a very important question: yes, all of the dogs have names.
Dog sledding in the Arctic was one of the coolest (get it?) experiences of my life. If you're not sure if you're up to it, check out the FAQ below- I hope it helps!
What company did we use for our dog sledding experience?
We chose the incredible staff of Active Tromsø for our trip
Visit them at http://www.activetromso.no
What is the cost for a day of dog sledding?
Cost will depend on which company you select, and vary based on length of time you spend sledding, location, meals, etc. After the conversion rate, we paid about $150 per person for an afternoon.
What do you wear for dog sledding?
Most companies will provide you with cold weather suits/gear but suggest you wear a solid base layer underneath, similar to skiing. This means a long sleeve shirt, fleece top, warm pants (I would not recommend jeans- I wore fleece leggings), gloves, hat, scarf, and warm socks. I should mention that if you are handling the dogs, you can expect your gloves to smell like a wet dog afterward. Remember, cotton is not ideal for being active in cold climates. It gets very cold if you sweat in it! Check with the company you book with for recommendations on what to wear.
What level of fitness is required for a day of mushing and sledding?
This will be a bit weather dependent. If you aren't working with a lot of snow, you won't be going incredibly fast, jumping on and off etc. If you are mushing there is a bit of push, pull, running, and jumping you may have to do but nothing beyond the traditional scope of "everyday fitness". If you are uncomfortable, all you have to do it break and drop the anchor. If you are inside the sled, your physical requirements will be to drop the anchor as needed, and to be able to recover quickly if you fall out. If you can walk up a few flights of stairs without being winded, you'll be fine!
An Arctic Adventure awaits you... Check out our ride in the video below!
If you have questions about our escape to northern Norway, please comment below or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BON VOYAGE, BABES!! xoxo