Who doesn’t love to play in the snow? Sure a lot of people will say they hate the cold and want to escape winter but when everyone says that to us, we feel sad. Growing up in Canada, we learned to love winter a long time ago, and while visiting Alberta we wanted to show the world that winter can be fun. It’s not this big bad monster that people should avoid. As a matter a fact, we love it so much, we want you to have the chance to visit in Winter too!
From our snowboarding adventure at Lake Louise to our Ice Climbing adventure in Canmore, we definitely proved that winter is awesome. But little did we know we’d find another new winter activity that we now love. Skijoring!
What is Skijoring you ask? Let me explain.
Skijoring is a fun winter sport invented in Norway where cross country skiers are pulled along by a horse, tractor or even snowmobile. Over time it’s been modified to where skiers can be pulled along by just about anything and during our time in Alberta, we were pulled by sled dogs.
We met with owner Russell Donald of Mad Dog and Englishman, Sled Dog Expeditions at Spray Lake outside of Canmore. He and his dogs had pulled up in their moving kennels and were ready for a good old run through the snow. They were nice and cozy inside, but as soon as they were brought out, they were ready and raring to go. The dogs were barking and shaking with excitement because soon they’d be doing what they do best. Running!
Unlike dogsledding, Skijoring only requires two dogs. Many people can go skijoring with their own dogs who love to run. That is as long as the dogs are large enough and capable of pulling a human being. It’s a great way for the dogs to get exercise while getting your blood pumping as well as you cross country ski behind them. All it takes is a harness and cross country skis and you are good to go.
Dave and I were never the greatest cross country skiers. We used to downhill ski, but in 2003 we switched to snowboarding and have never looked back. A few years ago we went out for a spin on the old cross country skis just North of Toronto and realized that it wasn’t really our best or favourite sport. We never did it again and when we were standing out on Spray Lake in Alberta, boy were we regretting that!
When Russell asked us how our skills were and we told him “intermediate at best”, he didn’t flinch. “Ok we can work with that.” Luckily, what Dave and I lack in skill, we make up for in enthusiasm. We weren’t going to let this skijoring thing get the best of us, so while they got the dogs ready, we practiced our skills on the lake.
We fell a few times and the ice was hard so I was getting a little anxious about how we’d react to the dogs. What if as soon as they take off, we crash? Would we be spending our day doing face plants in to the ice? As it turns out, Russell had been paying attention to our skills and chose dogs to suit our abilities. When it comes to Skijoring, it works best if you have the right dog. A skier that isn’t exactly great, gets the better more confident dog. That way they will not expect you to help them out so much.
Sounds good to us!
We both got a very frisky set of dogs that were prepared to take care of us and make up for our lack of skill. They were so good that even when we fell, they tried to keep on running and pulled us along in the snow.
As soon as our harnesses were hooked up to the dogs, they took off running. All our anxiety and worry immediately disappeared as we felt the freedom of soaring across the lake. The dogs were running and we were skiing and it was the most fun we’ve ever had on two skis.
They ran and we laughed and within a few minutes of taking off, Dave and I were both down on the ground. Dave lost his balance and went down and I was behind him. Just because something is in their way ahead, the dogs don’t care. They kept on running and went right by Dave which in turn caused me to crash right into him. It was a beautiful mess. All our four dogs got tangled together and yet they still wanted to run. As Dave and I tried to get up, they kept running and jumping over each other causing complete chaos. It was hilarious.
The second we were back on our feet and got them detangled, the dogs took off sprinting. We barely had time to get our balance before we were on the run again. My team of dogs tried to pass Dave’s team and whenever we got ahead, his made sure to try to pass me again. It was a serious race between the dogs. These guys are competitive. Whenever a dogsled owner tells you that his dogs love to run, they mean it. Sled dogs are made and born to run and by witnessing their energy and excitement, they are happiest when they run too.
You can’t help but feel good when skijoring. Even if you are in the worst of moods, the dogs will make you feel good. They are so excited and happy that their energy rubs off on you and you’ll be feeling excited and happy in no time. I know that we felt downright giddy during our entire tour around the lake. The more we fell, the more fun we had.
But once we finally got the hang of things, it was truly a blast. The dogs were happiest once we caught on because they could keep running for longer periods and we were happiest because we actually had the chance to feel what it was like to be pulled effortlessly by sled dogs. It felt like we were waterskiing.
Our camera crew watched us from afar as we circled the huge frozen lake and as they spied us wiping out and falling all over the place, they were sure that we were having a miserable time. They told us after the fact that they were thinking “Uh oh, what did we get Dave and Deb into? ” Imagine their surprise when we circled back with the big grins on our faces telling them, “You gotta try this!” We liked it, we really liked it?
And if you get yourself to Alberta during the winter, you have to give it a try. If you love adventure and having a good time, we guarantee that you’ll like it too!