This post by Mhairri Woodhall was originally published on the Travel Alberta website.
It’s a surreal feeling. The exhilaration coursing through me has created a slow motion effect. I see the wisps of our breath float in the crisp winter air. The peaceful silence that blankets this sparkling forest is interrupted only by the thunder of paws and whoosh of our sled cutting through the icy top layer of snow. Our team powers ahead, pulling us along the shores of Lake Louise with astonishing strength and grace.
I am joyous. Banff National Park is a scenic masterpiece and dog sledding in the Canadian Rockies tops my bucket list. After getting to know our team of Alaskan huskies, I doubt we’d find more enthusiastic guides to share in its splendour.
Dog sledding for beginners
While my husband Curt grew up with both huskies and malamutes as pets, I’m not as familiar with larger working breeds. To ease myself into the pack we booked Mushing 101 with Kingmik Dogsled Tours, which is just a short walk from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Approaching Kingmik, we could hear the pups’ excited howling, barking, and affable chatter well before seeing them.
Our musher Meghan welcomed us and immediately began introductions. Duff, Vargas, Moo, Growler, Trixie, Scoot. Like a proud parent Meghan shared a little about each dog’s personality and quirky disposition. Some were fearless leaders, others light hearted comedians, and a few thought they were lapdogs. One mischievous pooch named Tuff even engaged Curt in an amusing game of steal the mitten. Needless to say we fell head over heels for the rambunctious gang and were eager for our lesson to begin.
To start, we both snuggled into the sled under a cosy sleeping bag. Meghan was in place behind us, ready to mush. In a heartbeat the air fell silent as our huskies entered work mode. Then we were off. Talk about job satisfaction. The dogs were overjoyed, as were we. It felt as if we were flying through the winding, snowy woodland trail – and in some instances I do believe our sled was airborne.
Soon it was our turn to lead the pack. For the rest of the thirty-minute tour we took turns riding in the sled and standing behind it mushing the team. By the end my cheeks were rosy and hurt in that good way – you know, from laughing a little too hard. Hooked and hungry for more, we booked the two-hour Great Divide Tour for the following day. The 16-kilometre trip takes you to Yoho National Park through the Kicking Horse Pass.
The Great Divide Tour
Setting off the next morning, that familiar rush of excitement flooded back to me. Now seasoned mushers, we eagerly focused on the magnificent Canadian Rockies views. Blue sky and brilliant sunshine accentuateed the glittering ice crystals that danced in the air around us. When our paced slowed there were many breathtaking photo opportunities. It wasn’t long before the team was eager to run again. We harnessed their excitement, held on tight, and prepared to fly.