The staggered line-up of grey, black and white huskies begin whining as soon as I step outside. The Siberians laze on their stomachs, while the Alaskans stand up and pace, curious.
I’m curious, too. We’ve just arrived at Golden Dog Sled Adventures, where we’ll spend the better part of the morning interacting with the eight large, powerful, friendly dogs that will pull us through the snow in a handmade sleigh.
Matt Parr, the owner and musher of Golden Dog Sled Adventures, comes outside to greet us. He grabs my hand and shakes it firmly. “Welcome!” he says. “Come inside where it’s warm.”
The on-site log cabin emits the aroma of burning logs and pine-scented candles. Inside is a couch covered in wolf paraphernalia, a wooden counter holding a lantern and a bookshelf covered in random artifacts. Matt built the cabin himself, two years ago, when he founded Golden Dog Sled Adventures.
Alicia, Matt’s sister, guides us to the waivers we have to sign upon arrival.
Golden Dog Sled Adventures takes pairs or families up to four on an exhilarating and interactive adventure with eight of their 16 huskies. Dog sledding is an all-ages activity; Matt has mushed with guests aged eight to 80.
Matt grew up around animals in Windsor, Ontario. Eleven years ago he moved to Whistler, where he was thrown into his first mushing experience—and he was hooked. He bred a strong, fast team, and used the profits to compile his own team. With that, Golden Dog Sled Adventures was born.
“The dogs only run when they want to,” he tells me. “We’re not here to race. When guests are here, they’re number one; but the dogs are always number one. If I have to cancel a booking because the dogs are too tired or the conditions are unsafe, I will.”
“In those situations, the guests wouldn’t get the full experience, anyways,” Alicia adds.
The small, family-run company is clearly passionate about their business. It’s easy to see that while they love introducing guests to their huskies, the real reason they dog sled is because they love it themselves.
Meeting the Huskies
After the safety talk, we get out to meet the dogs. Matt introduces them one by one, explaining their position in line and the benefits of their breed. I find it a bit hard to listen, as I am constantly distracted by slobbering tongues, frisky paws and bellies begging to be rubbed.
After we’ve taken a normal amount of photographs (around 150) with the sociable pups, it’s harnessing time. Matt shows us how and gets us involved, although he suit-ups the Alpha.
I settle onto the bottom of the sled and lean back against Andy Brown, Tourism Golden’s Communications & Social Media Coordinator, who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out dog sledding too. The sled is made of steamed ash wood, hand-bent and laminated. Matt wraps us up and takes his place on the back of the sled.
And we're off!
I expect to hear a hearty “mush,” but instead, Matt whistles and yells encouragement to get the dogs moving. At his command, the huskies speed to a trot and even break into a lope. It wasn’t unbelievably fast, but there were a few bumps, hills and sharp turns I thought the sled might tip over at.
“Is this good for the dogs?” I call back to Matt.
“Absolutely,” he replies without hesitation.
Matt calls “Gee!” for the dogs to turn right and “Haw!” for them to turn left. Although they run two-by-two, Kona is the leader. The dogs’ attachment to Matt is evident.
Once we’re comfortable in the sled, Matt tosses down the ice hook—basically an ice pick mixed with an anchor—to give the dogs a chance to rest and us a chance to switch out.
Now it’s my turn to be the musher.
I step carefully onto the wooden skis protruding from the back of the sled. My boots are much wider than the icy sticks of wood, and at first, I find it hard to balance. Matt lifts the ice hook before my foot can hit the brake, so we lurch forward a little—the power, energy and excitement of the team sends my own heart running.
On Matt’s command, the sled takes off. I can tell the dogs are listening by the direction of their ears, but despite my attempts at calling out directions, I really don’t think they’re listening to me.
Kicked up snow spits into my eyes. I bend and weave with the movements of the sled. It is exhilarating to stand on the heels of such an epic journey.
Back for More
After Andy gives mushing a go, Matt tells stories about our surroundings and we somehow manage not to flip the sled, we arrive back to home base and unyoke the pups. We feed them treats and Matt dishes out “soup”—a mix of hydration with small bits of nutrition such as strings of chicken, the ideal sustenance after a good run.
Next, it’s our turn for treats. Alicia lays out cookies and hot chocolate for us to enjoy back in the warmth of the site cabin.
I’m still buzzing when I go to bid the dogs farewell (and sneak in a couple of selfies). Voulk begs for belly rubs, while Paris can’t stop climbing up my arms. I don’t want to leave the dogs, but I know there are impending guests arriving for their own adventure. As hard as it was to say goodbye, I will definitely be back for more.
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