Skijoring in Alberta is one of the most unique and fun adventures you’ll have in winter.
What is skijoring you ask? It’s a bit like dogsledding but instead, you are on skis, and dogs pull you without a sled.
And it is a great winter adventure that outdoor lovers will relish.
What is Skijoring
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.
During our time in Alberta, we were pulled by sled dogs while balancing on cross country skis.
Skijoring in Alberta
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!
How Skijoring Works
Unlike dogsledding, Skijoring only requires two dogs to pull a human on skis.
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 at the same time getting your blood pumping 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. Downhill skiing is more our speed.
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!
Brush Up On Your Cross Country Skiing
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 into the ice?
As it turns out, Russell had been paying attention to our skills and chose dogs to suit our abilities.
Choose the Right Dog for your Skill Level
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.
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 Love Skijoring
The dogs were running at full speed and we were skiing and it was the most fun we’ve ever had on two skis.
They ran, and we laughed. Within a few minutes of taking off, Dave and I were both down on the ground.
Dave lost his balance and went down quickly and I was right behind him.
Just because something is in their way ahead, the dogs don’t care. they keep on running regardless.
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, he made sure to try to pass me again. It was a serious race between the dogs.
These dogs are competitive.
Whenever a dogsled owner tells you that his dogs love to run, they mean it.
Sled dogs are born to run and by witnessing their energy and excitement, they are happiest when they run too.
Skijoring is fun!
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 down, 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.
We liked it, we really liked it!
We had a camera crew with us and as they watched us fall and sprawl across Spray Lake, they told us they were worried that we were having a miserable time.
Imagine their surprise when we circled back with the big grins on our faces telling them, “You gotta try this!”
So they did! And they loved it too.
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!
Skijoring Alberta Contacts and Information
- For dogsled and skijoring tours in Alberta visit Mad Dog and Englishmen Sled Dog Adventures