I’ve always wanted to go dogsledding. In fact, I flew all the way to Norway for a long weekend pretty much solely so I could try it.
Trondheim is Norway’s third largest city. It’s on the fringe of the Arctic Circle. Two hours from there by train, almost at the Swedish border, is a tiny village called Kopperå. And that’s where Norwegian Husky Adventures are based.
There are 43 dogs here.
Some austere, like Mick.
Some loopy, like Freddy.
And in addition to the 43 adult dogs, eight tiny little adorable bundles of fluff.
After a coffee, and meeting all the dogs, I was given a quick tutorial and then it was time to harness up the team.
My badass crew was made up of Lady and Froya at the front, Yade in the middle, & Witney and Tina at the back. (I’ll admit that I was trying to think of good Whitney Houston / Tina Turner mashups the entire time).
I harnessed up the crew myself, then stood hard on the foot brake while someone unclipped our chain from the post. When I released my grip on the brake, we were off!
It started off flat, but the terrain evolved and before long we were going up and down hills – picking up a surprising amount of speed.
One of the things that surprised me was how often the dogs would poop while racing fast. They could be running full pelt and then quickly squat, almost getting dragged along for several metres while they relieved themselves at the worst possible moment. All the dogs did it at least twice – I guess they’re pros!
The sled itself was pretty light. The driver (me!) stands on the back on a small platform, regularly shifting weight between that platform and the brake – which is basically a wide shovel that sits above the snow-line until you press it down into the snow with your feet; creating a lot more friction and slowing down the dogs.
I could only whip out my camera when the going was easy, but the most fun moments included steep inclines and sharp turns that you don’t really get a sense of from these photos.
One of the other things that surprised me was how much work it was. When there’s a steep uphill, the dogs need help – you have to get off and push the sled, then jump on again when it picks up speed. Driving is much more physical than being a passenger.
And from what I hear, driving when you have a passenger is harder again. You get one more dog in your team, but the extra weight onboard means the driver has to help push far more often. The French couple on the sled in front of me had their three-month old daughter with them. (!)
After about two hours, I had completely lost my sense of direction, when suddenly I realized I could see the farm house in the distance.
We returned, I gave my dogs big hugs, unharnessed them and returned them to their kennels, then enjoyed a big coffee and a cinnamon bun before beginning the long journey back to Trondheim.
I’d highly recommend dogsledding to anyone with even a passing interest. It’s relatively physical but doesn’t require a high level of technical skills or even co-ordination. I had a great experience and would do it again if I got the opportunity.