Dog Sledding in Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Dog Sledding in Mont TremblantWhen I pictured dog sledding, I wondered how the sleigh rider was considered an athlete. Beyond withstanding the extreme cold, what was the skill? Holding on tight?

 

Dog Sledding Mont Tremblant

 

As soon as we unchained the lead huskies from the fence, the discordant cacophony barked up with the passion and anger of Real Madrid fans losing a game on penalty kicks ended and the dogs sprinted silently through the snow. I applied skill one and held on to the wooden bar, watching the beauty of the forest unfold. The trees flew past this canvas of snow. But when my crew–leaders Tsila and Kasuko, Kamourasca and Waconici, siblings Mapawa and Tayazo, and the powerhouses Agagouk and Hankasi–reached their first ascent, we slowed and I recognized my obligation: I ran beside the sled to help the dogs. While I was no powerful canine, the burn felt nice in the well-below-frozen woods.

 

At the peak, the sled tipped forward and I jumped back on, pressing slightly on the stomp pad dragging behind the sled, which communicated to the dogs that we did not want meet the same fates as those who had left their imprints in the snow banks.

Dog Sledding Quebec

 

When I had first come across the dogs that ran for Expeditions Wolfe, they were chained to poles, offered a length of chain that allowed only for the circumnavigating of their small radius. Everything that the guide told us on the bus as we pulled away from the Tremblant Activity Center about the ethical treatment of the dogs started to feel untrue. The huskies barked like impounded dogs aware of an approaching slaughter. But, at the same time, the guides clearly loved these creatures, having committed all of the 250 dog names to memory. Another guide explained that a husky’s lifespan is increased when they live outside and frolic in these cold climates. But was two hours of racing through the woods enough? Maybe.

 

Dog Sledding Mont Tremblant

 

Many of the dogs were rescue dogs, their anglicized names painted green on the trees. Certainly their lives were better in these woods than the alternative. The red names, taken from the Inuit language, belonged to those dogs born on site, like Outpik and her five puppies, birthed three weeks earlier in minus-thirty temperatures. They would be the next to earn a red sign, though they had about a year before they would run.

 

Husky Puppies

 

All of the animal ethics were explained by the guides and offered up as best practice: dogs were retired to live their natural lives out in the kennel; the chains had to be short to prevent the dogs from attacking one another. We even had to walk the dogs to the sled one at a time with a comfortable distance between each creature so that they wouldn’t brawl. (In fact, finding a place and a partner for the 250 dogs is much like engineering; it requires carefully drawn out sled team charts and a knowledge of canine proclivities and desires.)

 

Dog Sledding in Mont Tremblant

 

In the end, the question of animal ethics is a confounding one. But to see the huskies run a sled, ferociously attacking the snow and reluctant to halt, panting with appreciation for their time on the loose and chained to a wooden craft, I could tell that for at least two hours each day, the dogs were exactly where they wanted to be.

 

Husky Puppies Sled Dogs

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Canada & The Caribbean, Somewhere

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