Many thanks to Katie and Josh for a fantastic Christmas present.
What an experience!
I am sure that many people have thought the idea of sledding to be a romantic notion. Hitting snowy wilderness trails accompanied by your capable and loyal companions. I can now confirm that indeed it is.
Oh, and also that it is hard work for the driver aswell as the dog team. Something I had not expected. After almost 3 hours and several km’s I was as ready for a break as the dogs were.
To see 30 dogs chained up in two lines was at first intimidating. Some wanted to fight each other, many were barking and I was unsure how to approach them as a pack. However, once assured that they would be accepting of new people, each individual dog was as soft and lovable as the next. All enjoying some patting and fussing.
After building some trust in this way we were shown how to put the harnesses on the dogs and then did so for our team. After a clear safety briefing, including how to manage the sled when/if tipped over we were ready to start.
It sounds easier than it is but you do get used to anticipating and managing the journey quite quickly.
Going downhill it is about allowing the dogs to run and making sure that you don’t allow the sled to run into them, so a constant tweaking of brake and moving weight around to stay on the thing as you go round the turns of the tracks.
Going uphill you need to remember that you are one of the team not the ‘lard-arse old fart’ you are the rest of the time, and get off and give the dogs some help by scooting and walking/pushing the sled with them.
Going backcountry off the trails it is about judging when to hold on and when to jump off depending on trees and gullies and roots and snow cover.
I feel like I was properly trusted and helped to understand this ancient method of travel today. There were 30 dogs out in total and six sleds each with 4 dogs. None of the other ‘drivers’ had done it before either so it was a good job that the dogs knew what was expected.
My dogs were called Igloo, Inuit, Apache and …Bert.
At least that’s what I thought I heard!
A fantastic addition to my adventure and massive thanks to Jean-Jacques and Isobel for the excellent explanations and a great route.
This activity is available in lots of locations in the French Alps and beyond and is highly recommended for an unforgettable experience.
By the way I checked the ethical nature of this activity and according to most (but not all) accounts the dogs do enjoy the activity when managed properly.
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