Dog sledding is one of the must-do activities if you come to Norway in the winter. You get to ‘mush’ through some of the best winter landscapes and experience one of Norway’s top sports that was used for hunting and travel since before the Viking Age.
Easter is a great time to enjoy winter sports in Norway. The sun is bright and the light lasts all day, the snow is fluffy and thick, and the weather is more stable. We decided to take a two hour dog sledding tour near our hometown in Alta. When we arrived, we suited up in warm jump-suits, hats and boots provided by the dog sled centre.
We were assigned a team of dogs, just five for beginners. Apparently, the more dogs you have in a team, the faster you will go. We were quickly trained in steering and stopping, and instructed never to let go of the reins. “Remember that the dogs will run for the hills if they get the chance,” we were told.
The energy of the dogs was infectious, and I couldn’t help being extra buzzed for the ride.
We jumped on the sled and away we went, following each other in a line along a scenic track through a forrest and next to the Alta river. Even in a tour convoy, the dogs were very responsive to our steering.
Back at the centre, we got to thank our team with plenty of hugs. Us ‘mushers’ then piled into the lavvo (a teepee-style traditional Sami tent with an open fire ) for supper–cookies, and warm cordial or coffee. A trainer told us stories about the dogs’ training, famous Norwegian mushers and about the world of dog sled racing.
The thing that impressed me most about this dog sledding centre was that they cared for their dogs immensely. Dog sledding in Norway isn’t just a business, but a way of life. Dogs are chosen for their intellect and character, not for their coats. And if a dog isn’t quite up to the challenge of racing, they still get to enjoy what they love best–running in the snow–with dog sledding tours. I was quite happy to find out I was helping the dogs get the exercise they need each day.
It was the best experience, and quietly in my head I thought, ‘I want to be able to do this every day, forever!’