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Dogsledding in Alberta, Canada

dogsledding alberta

When I imagine a perfect winter wonderland, Alberta, Canada immediately pops into mind.

From the dense pine trees caked with snow, to log cabins covered in icicles hidden away by frozen lakes to the towering Rocky Mountains to more winter activities to chose from than anywhere I’d ever been, I was in love. At first sight. I’m an easy target, guys.

I’d never seen such dry powdery snow that sparkled. In fact, I hadn’t seen that much snow ever! Seeing it piled a meter high on the roofs was able to give a bit of scale of how much snow this area of Canada actually gets in the year – a whole hell of a lot!

Alberta definitely fits the “winter wonderland” cliche to a T. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you love winter travel like me!

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

I’ve already shared my favorite photographs and memories from Alberta on the blog a while back, but this time I wanted to go ahead and tell you guys about one of the best days I had in Canada – going dogsledding. I’ve dogsledded in New Zealand and in Finland before, but I think Alberta was my favorite – don’t tell anyone.

Bring on the snow! And the husky puppies! YEOW!

It was also the very first activity I experienced on my way towards Banff National Park in Canmore Kananaskis Country, so it was the perfect introduction to the Rockies and the Canada I had always imagined.

After a few days hanging out and eating my way through Calgary, I was ready to finally see that pure Canadian wilderness for myself. Driving straight to Canmore from the big city , I made it just in time to the Snowy Owl Dog Sled Tour office just in time to check in for my afternoon adventure.

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

Putting on all my winter layers and borrowing their boots, I bundled up and got ready for an afternoon with the pups dogsledding in Alberta.

I grew up with dogs and I love being around animals more than anything, so any opportunity I have to ethically interact and be around animals on the road I jump at. Any kind of animal-based activity for tourism nowadays can be a touchy subject so I am always careful about what I endorse and which operators I work with.

Snowy Owl has an awesome mantra about how they breed, work and interact with their dogs so it was easy to get behind them. They also adopt out their retired dogs to the right people which is pretty rad. And kinda intense which shows how much they care about their four legged family.

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

Back in the day dogs were used all over North America and Canada as transport, explorations and even in the Gold Rush, and were probably used for far longer than that. The breeds you meet dogsledding like huskies and malamutes are strong energetic pack dogs that can run and pull for hours and hours. And they love it! This is literally what they’ve been bred to do for centuries, and man oh man are they good at it! But if you aren’t holding on, you will go flying!

They are made for very cold weather and even on these runs they get really hot, and roll around in the snow to cool off when they get the chance.

As we matched up and picked our teams the dogs knew they were getting the chance to go running, and began to howl! Excitement was in the air! Literally.

MUSH MUSH!

dogsledding alberta

Sometimes the sled dogs wear booties to prevent abrasions on their paws from the snow and ice

dogsledding alberta

I’d driven the sleds before (ungracefully hanging on for dear life) and this time I was keen to get more photos so I opted to sit bundled up in the sled for the ride instead – the lazy girl seat. Oh well, embrace it. Even though it was January, it wasn’t super cold (by Alberta standards) that day, so I didn’t have any problems staying warm.

Before I knew it we were off. The musher behind me on the sled was super knowledgable about the dogs, photography and all things Alberta, so we had no shortage of things to talk about on the ride.

This was my first proper introduction to the mountains of Canada and I think my jaw hung wide open in awe for the first part of the ride. That is until one of the dogs heard the call of mother nature and took care of business in the middle of the run – after that I kept my mouth shut.

When you notice one of your dogs needs to go to the bathroom you slow down and stop the sled by pushing down on the bar with your feet. If you don’t keep a solid grip and have your feet firmly planted on the ground, you might find yourself flat on your back and your dogs and your friend in the sled a kilometer down the trail.

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

I think I was mostly impressed by how smart and agile these dogs are. Even though they are working dogs on a job, which they take very seriously, they are super friendly and happy. You can just feel the excitement when they finally get to run.

Each dog has a role to play in pulling the sled, from the lead dogs in front setting the pace and keeping everyone in check to the swing dogs behind them which help steer around corners to the team dogs in the middle helping to pull the weight and finally the big brawny wheel dogs in the back by the sled that take a lot of the weight.

It’s like a well-oiled machine at work that sometimes has to stop and poop.

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

While I’m usually right in the thick of it traveling, it was really really nice to just sit back and enjoy the ride that afternoon. Out in the wilderness we passed glittering snow covered trees, huge mountains, rode by beautiful rivers and across a huge frozen lake as the sun was starting to set. We even (quickly) passed a moose! Canada turning on the goods!

I definitely had a few “pinch me – is this real life?” moments in the Alberta backcountry that afternoon. Magic, guys, pure magic!

Eventually we arrived back where we started and enjoy a nice hot cup of cocoa by the fire as the dogs rested, as you do when you are in a winter wonderland.

Have you been dogsledding before? Is this what you imagined? Would you try it in Alberta too?

dogsledding alberta

dogsledding alberta

Many thanks to Travel Alberta for hosting me in Canada, like always I’m keeping it real, like you could expect less from me!

47 Responses to Dogsledding in Alberta, Canada

  1. Meghan October 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Lovely photos! Dogsledding seems so insane

    • Liz October 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      Not too insane, pretty much anyone can go!

  2. Petra October 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Looks like a wonderful experience Liz! Would love to give it a go sometime. Where did you do it in NZ?

    • Liz October 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      It’s awesome! They have it sometimes up at Snow Farm in Wanaka!

  3. Alex October 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    I WANT TO BE YOU! So Jealous!!

    • Liz October 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      hahahaha!

  4. Danielle October 11, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    These photos are absolutely or gorgeous! I’m glad you sat back and took the time to take them rather than being know the thick of the action! The surroundings look insane and oh my God, those little booties! <3

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      They are so cute, right?

  5. Megan Griep October 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Those dogs look adorable! Great photos! 🙂

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks they are super cute!

  6. Pilot Mark October 11, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    Great photos Liz! Going straight onto my wishlist!

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      🙂

  7. Kate Newman October 11, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

    This is so amazing, I visited the Snowy Owl kennels only a couple of months ago but unfortunately there was no snow to try out the sledding! I have a post on them too ‘www.travelfordifference.com/snowy-owl-dog-kennels/’. Your post is so beautiful and it has certainly made me sad that I couldn’t experience it for myself!

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      OMG you have to go back in winter!

  8. Anne October 12, 2016 at 1:03 am #

    I went dog sledding once before and I don’t know how many times I fell off and our dogs just kept running! It was good fun, looks like you had a blast

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:12 am #

      you sound like me!

  9. Cate October 12, 2016 at 1:31 am #

    I am such a fan of winter travel, so this look super fun! Can’t wait to hear more Canadian adventures

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:12 am #

      So much more to share!

  10. Rebecca October 12, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    My husband and I did dog-sledding in Quebec (where I’m from) when he visited almost three years ago, and it was so magical. Definitely an experience I want to repeat one day! It looks like you had a wonderful trip, great pictures. I remember not being able to take any photos because I we drove the sled together.

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:13 am #

      Yeah that’s why this time I just rode in it haha

  11. Kaili October 12, 2016 at 6:58 am #

    Great photos! Dog sledding has definitely made it’s way onto my bucketlist now.

    Kaili

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:14 am #

      It’s so awesome!

  12. Tabitha Wolff October 12, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    I’ve done it twice in Alaska – once was on a glacier! The scenery there looks amazing!

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:14 am #

      Oh that would be so cool!

  13. Brooklyn Murtaugh October 12, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I’m Canadian but have never been dog sledding (or skiing, or snowboarding, God I am a terrible Canadian…)
    I hope I get to go one day!

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:14 am #

      As long as you like maple syrup 😛

  14. Ryan Mutch October 12, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    First time I went for a dog sled ride I was 11. My dad and I went up to the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, Alaska and I got to visit a husky breeder/musher. I hang out with the dogs and go on a ride. I’m pretty sure my face hurt from smiling so much. I didn’t know that there was dog sledding in New Zealand. That’s pretty awesome!

    • Liz October 12, 2016 at 11:14 am #

      That’s amazing!

  15. Lorna October 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    Such a spectacular way to take in the beautiful scenery! I love that you looked into the ethics surrounding the animals, too. So great that they’re treated as pets and not just working dogs. 🙂

    • Liz October 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

      Thanks! Yeah that is important to me

  16. Michelle October 12, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

    Canada is by far my favourite destination! I just love everything about it. Although I’ve never sledded in Alberta, I have been in British Columbia, and it was such a highlight of our trip. Also – it’s quite the treat sitting and enjoying the ride. I couldn’t manage mushing for long as it was absolutely FREEZING when we went!

    • Liz October 13, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

      Yeah it can be so cold!

  17. Meagan October 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    I love Snowy Owl dog sledding! Although I visited Banff/Canmore regularly growing up in Alberta I hadn’t done it before, so I took the opportunity when my BF visited Canada for the first time and I was showing him around my part of the world. We’re making a trip back this January and we’ve been tossing around checking this out again, maybe doing one of their overnight tours! Safe to say he also loves Canadian winter and says this was one of his favourite tourist activities he’s done. I can’t wait to play in the snow in January again!!

    Thanks for showing such an amazing side to Alberta!

    • Liz October 14, 2016 at 9:22 am #

      Thanks! I would love to do a longer trip too!

  18. Jeremy. T1D traveler October 14, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    I agree – there may be places as nice as Albert in winter but none nicer. And the dogs are equally handsome. What a great adventure you had, thanks for the pictures and the story!

    • Liz October 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      It’s so magical!

  19. Brian October 15, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    Definitely on the bucket list! Snow, dogs, stunning landscape, I don’t think you could ask for much more! Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz October 15, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      You definitely couldn’t!

  20. Rebecca October 23, 2016 at 5:52 am #

    So much fun! Huskies are such beautiful dogs. PS. Love your ring in the third last pic – from NZ?

    • Liz October 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

      actually my mom got it for me for xmas last year in the US

  21. Carissa Owens October 29, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    Liz! I love this post! Absolutely adding this to my bucket list now! Thanks for always keeping it real <3

    xoxo Carissa Owens
    One World State of Mind

    • Liz October 29, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

      Cheers!

  22. Jaclyn November 4, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    I’m going to Alberta in a month with friends and we are going to book a dog sledding tour. What was the tour you did with Snowy Owl? They have a few to choose from

    • Liz November 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

      I think it was the shortest one!

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