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Sun Peaks Resort Blog

Mountain Man Adventure - Dog Sledding

by Sarah16. February 2012 13:59

The one thing I've heard consistently since arriving in Sun Peaks is “you have to do the dog sledding, it's a must do for any local or holiday maker!” So when I was asked if I wanted to go on the tour I jumped at the chance, especially as it was already on my 'things to do in Canada' list!



Walking up into the kennels I was surprised at how quiet it was and the thought did cross my mind that maybe most of the dogs were out. They weren't … it was a full house and as soon as they saw that we were going to be heading out the excitement levels jumped from 0 to 100! All of them were trying their best to get picked, some were displaying over the top excitement and energy, while others were trying to get the sympathy vote. It doesn't matter what they try as each dog gets a turn to go out at least once a day.



The whole experience can be as hands on as you want it to be – from leading the dogs to get harnessed up, to driving the actual sled! To be able to offer a hands on experience Chris and Taryn have worked hard with their pack to make them as comfortable as possible with the constant change of visitors. To me the dogs didn't seem to mind the endless pats and cuddles. They are both so passionate about everything they do and you can see it reciprocated in their dog's excitement and happiness as they walk between them.






How long have you been working with dogs?

Chris is in his 11th year of Dog Sled Guiding, and Taryn in her 2nd. We have been the owners at Sun Peaks for two seasons.

What do you both love about your job?

We love the dogs, the wilderness and the quiet of the winter. Dog Sledding can be challenging, exciting and extremely rewarding as you work together as a team.

Many people think ‘Mush!’ is the term used to get a team going but I read somewhere that ‘Hike!’ is more commonly used, would you agree?

Mush is a derivative of the French word 'Marche' which means March. It has fallen out of common use, but we encourage our guests to use it if they want! Hike is more common to get the dogs to work harder up hills. We don't actively use either term - but the upbeat tone in which both words are used is the most important thing. We usually say 'Let's Go! ' & 'Good Dogs!'.

How many dogs to you have? And is this the limit or do you want more?

We currently have 46; the number will always be changing as we are going to need to bring in some younger dogs to replace some of the older ones. We always have a few dogs that will be available for adoption if the right family comes along.

What is the majority of your breed of dogs?

Our dogs are all 'Alaskan Huskies', a mixed breed. Every dog has a different look resulting of years of selective breeding based on performance as opposed to looks.

How long does it take to train a dog to run with a sled?

Our dogs have a natural desire to run with a group - when free running they often run in pairs! When they are in harness for the first time, they will run but they need to learn manners - like don't jump on your brother, stay on your side of the line and stuff like that.

What position on the gangline do you choose for the dogs?
 
We choose the confident, smart, obedient, and fast dogs for leaders. We try to keep the stronger, bigger dogs at the back (wheel position) but making sure that the dogs running together get along is a priority.

What are the dogs favourite treat?

The dogs love meat - we are currently feeding fish as treats, they like the heads the best. We also feed beef fat and trimmings from a local butcher which they go nuts for. In the summer we will also give them bones.
 
The dogs get so excited when they sense a tour is about to happen, how do you choose which dogs to use?

In the mornings, before people arrive, we formulate our teams based on who needs to go today. Some dogs need to run more than others, so we make sure that everyone is getting adequate exercise according to their needs. The dogs don't know that though - so they may think that barking and jumping are the criteria we use! They do definitely know our routine when guests arrive though.

Your company has been praised as setting a great example for many sledding company’s/ kennels, when it comes to retiring and housing dogs for adoption, what is the best way to go about contacting you for dog adoption?
 
Thank you for saying that - we had never heard anything to that effect before. If people are interested in bringing a sled dog into their family, we would recommend coming for a visit and meeting the dogs. If there is one that they have a connection with, we encourage going for walk to see the dog outside of the kennel environment. Most of our dogs have limited experience on leash, in a home, and in a city - these are things that will take some adjustment time for both the dog and its new family. Once you have decided to adopt, we would like to take some time to work with that dog to ease some of this transition by bringing them indoors, on walks and so on. If for whatever reason you find that the dog is not a good fit for your family we would happily take them back into our kennel.

Final question, do you like cats?

We don't have cats, but are fond of them. We do plan on getting one or two to help with the mouse issue at our summer home this year.












I agree with all the feedback I was receiving about going on the Dog Sledding tour! It was such an awesome experience and I HIGHLY recommend everyone to give it a go and get involved as much as possible!

To book a tour with Mountain Man Adventures contact the Sun Peaks Adventure desk by phone on 250-578-5542, email: activities@sunpeaksresort.com or visit them directly in the Village Day Lodge.



Hayden.

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Snow Dogs

by Brandi22. March 2011 18:51

It’s been a long held desire of mine to have my own dog one day so I was so thrilled to be able to join a Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures tour last week.  Every time I heard the kennel when I was riding on Orient Ridge I was hit with a pang of jealously of whoever was setting off behind a team.

Recently taken over by new owners, Chris and Taryn, these Sun Peaks mushers have a had a great first season. They have about 50 mixed Alaskan Huskies, some of which they inherited from the previous owners and others have come to them through different channels. While this seemed like a huge amount of dogs to me, I was assured Chris has looked after much larger kennels.



Bred for purpose, these dogs all looked like individuals and showed great personalities. The dogs were overjoyed to have you come and say hello.

During the first part of tour we walked around, meeting different dogs while asking questions about the operation. Taryn explained the experience could be as hands-on as I wanted. As soon as it became clear we were heading out on a tour the energy level in the kennel went up about four notches. Every dog perked up and wanted to be chosen to run.


Getting harnessed


Being led to the sled


Stoked!


Ready to go

As we led dogs to be harnessed, I couldn’t believe how beyond-excited they were! Lunging forward, it took a bit of strength to hold them. Their energy was contagious and I couldn't wait to get on the trail either.

I was up to drive the team first and after a brief rundown the sled was in my hands. I yelled, “Ready, Go!” and eased off the brake. As soon as the dogs felt the pressure ease they were off.

The first thing I noticed was the silence. The barking ceased as they lunged forward, putting their energy toward the trail. The second thing I noticed was how incredibly smooth the ride was. Standing on the back of the sled felt surprising natural and as we headed swiftly towards the narrow trail my confidence grew. I realized why this was such a popular method of transportation in the north.

The snowy woods surrounded us on all sides, and over 10cm of fresh, gorgeous snow had fallen over night. The rest of the world seemed to melt away as we headed farther a long the trail.

Skating or running a bit to help the team on hills, we made it to our first break. The dogs looked elated and basked in the praise and treats they were given. Our team leaders were Kootenay and Skunky. I had fallen for Kootenay right away, with his more traditional husky face and calmer demeanor. Six dogs made up the team and other 6 on the sled ahead of us. Brand new, this sled has space for one passenger, one driver and a guide driver and is a great new addition to the tours.


Foxy and Shredder


This guy might love snow more than I do


A younger dog learns to be a confident lead from the veteran with 1,000km racing experience

When they team sensed they were close to home they found more energy and sped up. A bit of downhill and six dogs in front of you is all you need to feel like you are getting some real speed! From my comfy seat in the sled we emerged from the trees and headed back in the direction of Tod Mountain.











Homeward Bound





During my time with Chirs, Tayrn and their dogs I got sense of how much passion, patience and work goes into their operation. These dogs may be a bit different then your average pet but they are just as loved. It’s definitely a full time job. Looking towards the future they plan to expand their breeding program also the trail system at Sun Peaks. A brief glance at their Facebook page shows you how memorable these tours are for all their guests. Thanks so much to Mountain Man adventures for sharing this unique experience with me and I can’t wait to come visit again!

Take Care,

Brandi

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