Dogsledding is a method of winter travel developed by northern Aboriginal peoples… some put it at 4000 years ago. Early European explorers and trappers then adopted it as the most efficient way to haul goods across snow-covered terrain.
Teams of two to 12 or more dogs are commonly tied in pairs to a single towline, or gangline. The gangline is attached to a sled, and the dogs pull the sled across the snow.
The first one or two dogs on a gangline are the leaders and guide the team. The “point dogs,” the first pair behind the leaders, encourage the leaders forward and are often leaders-in-training. The “wheel dogs,” the last pair of dogs immediately in front of the sled, are usually the strongest dogs and keep the sled on track. The dogs between the point and wheel dogs are the “swing dogs” and keep the team on the trail when rounding.
The leaders are controlled by voice commands from the driver, who either rides the rear of the sled or walks ahead, or runs behind. Early French Canadian drivers called "Marche!" to spur their teams. English explorers misinterpreted this as "mush" — henceforth drivers were called "mushers."
Today, it’s an outdoor sport that anyone can participate in… and having never done it I had never realized how much fun it was. I now hop on a dog sled every year when we are up in the Yukon. Working together with my team of dogs, its an exhilarating ride through some of the most gorgeous landscapes Canada has to offer the outdoor enthusiast.
For those much more advanced than me there are dog races held across Canada every year. Sled dog enthusiasts train teams for a variety of activities from touring wilderness areas to racing for fun and cash prizes. Races are held across Canada, often in association with winter carnivals. Some are short distance races or sprints, where speed is the key to winning. Others are endurance races covering many hundreds of kilometres and several days of travel.
The most famous endurance race in Canada is the Yukon Quest, which runs each year between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. The race is 1,600 km long, taking 10 to 14 days to complete, depending on trail and weather conditions.
The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now comes alive each February with the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs. Up to 50 dog teams consisting of one human ‘musher’ and 14 canine athletes tread across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America.
Dawson City marks the halfway point and is a mandatory stop for each mushing team. A concession, warm up area, and a greeting area allows you to get close to the athletes and enjoy the action! The perfect opportunity to gather and photograph some great action for us in 2018
Today I wanted to announce that I have been working on a trip to photograph the Quest for the past year. Those discussions are done and I wanted to announce that I will be taking a group up to Dawson City in February of 2018 to photograph the Yukon Quest and the Northern Lights at the peak of the aurora season.
This is the perfect trip for those that want to have a true Canadiana experience, photographing some of the best winter landscapes, an ancient tradition of Dog Sledding of the Yukon Quest, behind the scenes where normal tourists photograph from, and witness the spectacle known as the Northern Lights.
But, that’s not all, together we will take our own dog teams out for a day and head out to photograph the wildlife species such as… Thinhorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Musk Oxen, Caribou, Moose, Woodland Bison, Canadian Lynx, Arctic Fox and Mule Deer.
This trip is the best that Yukon has to offer in the winter, and i hope you will join me.
If you cant wait and you want to join me for a week of dog sledding in 2017, I will be there twice at the end of 2017