Lapland was the absolute highlight of the trip and I shall never ever forget what a wonderful time I had over there with Tim. The next morning we got up early and were driven out to the kennels where we met the dogs and Pasi’s girlfriend Anita. They have 34 dogs together and they were all shapes and sizes and ages. After we met the dogs Pasi explained the basics of sledding and Tim promptly informed him that I would be doing the driving whilst he sat in the sled!! Thanks Tim! Actually as it turned out I had such a good time I never really wanted to sit in the sled ever, I’d rather be driving it! So we got this old wooden sled and Tim sat in it with 8 dogs attached. Pasi took a sled as well with 8 dogs on it. My first lesson that day was a snowy one….first of all sleds don’t brake too well when going through forest, down hill over very bumpy terrain, second; dogs don’t care if you yell in a panic – if they can keep running they will do so regardless of whether you are still on the sled or not. We got them to stop though without using the brakes or the snow anchor, heheheh they can’t pull a sled anymore if it is on its side with the passenger hanging out nearly wrapped around a tree stump! Of course that doesn’t really work for long term because we don’t go anywhere. It is a skill I tell you, to be able dislodge a sled from around a tree stump and in that split second it is free to apply brakes and anchor so fast that the dogs don’t run off without you (which they did on at least three occasions that first day….I did raise the benefits of training the dogs to stop on command to Pasi later but I don’t think I convinced him that the effort required to teach this to these dogs would be worth it in the end…these dogs have one mode made up of two singular goals RUN PULL RUN PULL RUN PULL, and when stopped, go beserk yelling at the humans to get their asses into gear regardless, even if you have just run 15kms pulling a heavy load). These dogs astounded me…..when their speed had dropped after a while I thought they’d appreciate a break and not be so maniacal about taking off, afterall their tongues were hanging out, they were working hard, not going so fast, had just done what seemed like 3kms uphill. Yet you stop them up the top of the hill and within a couple of minutes they’re jumping, straining at their lines, barking to go again and indeed they take off again like they haven’t even been anywhere that day. These guys would surely push Lance Armstrong in the fitness stakes in the peak of a Tour De France!
Lapland the night of our arrival – everything was blanketed
in snow! This you have to understand is a very novel and rare
experience for one such as myself who has spent pretty much 30 odd
years of her life living in a region where the closest to snow we get
is a little bit of frosty grass in the mornings!
This looks like a postcard shot but it isn’t!
That’s Tim’s foot and I’m driving the sled!
Learning how to secure the sled fast and strong is essential
for all dog sledders – that and don’t break the sled is also a good
tip to remember.
I got to know the dogs quite well and I’m sure both Pasi and Anita were probably very tired of answering all my questions regarding the dogs, their backgrounds and all about competitive dog sledding. Out of the 34 dogs there were only 2 were pure bred Siberians, one named Jane was a mother to three 3 week old pups and she apparently was an excellent sled dog who worked really hard, yet she looked nothing like any of the Siberians I have met. She was a reddy, brown sort of colour all over with a slightly dark face mask but nothing too distinct, she had these long legs and wiry frame on her. You could tell she could run for miles with no problems. The other was around 8 or 9 months old and she looked exactly what you might see here however both Pasi and Anita informed me that they would be finding a nice home for her since she had no interest at all in being a sled dog and would not pull when you put her on the line! The rest of the dogs were mostly mixes with the majority of them being Alaskan Husky by main percentage, some had Greenland dog in them and some had a mix of Sibe and Alaskan, one even had some greyhound in it, others were mixes of Alaskan, Sibe, English Pointer and German Shorthaired Pointer. Alaskan Huskies are the true sledding dog according to most die hard purist sledders. They are much rangier and longer in the leg than Sibes, their coats are not as thick, they come in a much wider multitude of colours and head shapes. The dogs used in competitive sprint sledding of 8 up to 15km races are very different from the dogs that are used to pull loads over long distances. Those dogs are not used for tourists at all and almost all look out of place sitting on the snow as their coats are often as short as GSPs and apart from a few blue eyes you wouldn’t necessarily notice the husky in them. They have it in them somewhere though because not only do they need to be a lighter build yet with more muscle strength they also must have that overriding and extremely intense desire to pull. I did worry for them initially about how they cope with the cold but saw quickly that their dens/kennels were very nicely insulated and most of them would be curled up in their dens when not running or greeting visitors. Competitive sledders are trying all sorts of blending of lines to breed the ultimate sprint sled dog, there was talk of GSD being used in the long distance race dogs, and I swear two of the 6 month pups I saw had some BC in them! I was surprised to hear though that there is separate classes for the Alaskans and their crosses as they are not allowed to compete against solely purebred Siberian Husky teams. The Sibes have a class all of their own and according to our hosts this was mostly because the Sibes couldn’t touch the the Alaskans and the crosses for speed and stamina, the Sibes would never be in the placings apparently LOL!
The two teams side by side, Pasi making sure the sled wasn’t
going anywhere. The four leads dogs from right to left – Panda,
Cindi, Targa and Stargate, all girls of course, brains are needed
You’d think they’d need a lie down after a quick 10 kms or so!
Out in the middle of a serene nowhere…now check our sled
out closely, see that strappy thing wrapped over the handle?
That was attempting to hold the handle together after we
crashed into a tree stump and cracked one side. Needless to say
it did not hold and we had to return home minus the handle.
A unique perspective of the possible problems facing a long distance
sledder. We steered using the sides of the sled.
This is Lela – a sister to the striking Lacoyta. She lived in the
house, loved pats and cuddles and to play with sticks of any
I forget who this young one is, she was memorable for
constantly sticking her head through the feeding hole checking us out.
Tatoo – the 8 month old Aussie Shepherd from Germany,
all working lines she has a big future working in the Alps with
the cows, when she’s not trying to get the sled dogs to move her way.
This is Balu, 4 yrs old, mostly Alaskan Husky some Sibe
all work. He is one of three brothers who live here.
Lacoyta, a very friendly, outgoing boy, who works hard on the
line and has the most gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen!
This is Grizzly, it was a bit eerie watching him move around the
yard, he is so wolf like you’d swear he had some in him! Grizzly
didn’t go sledding as he had a bit of an upset tummy.
The Veteran – Bore, I had a soft spot for him
from the beginning. So friendly and outgoing,
put him on the line and he would stand stoically
gazing over the distant trail ignoring the younger
riff raff around him going off their heads. As soon
as you let the brake off he was off, pulling as hard as
the youngsters and showing more stamina than most.
At 9 years old he’s the fittest veteran dog I’ve seen.
Lacoyta on the stake out chain. There is a bit of English pointer mixed
in with this Alaskan Husky.
Gizmo, very Sibe looking, a mix of Sibe and Alaskan. This is
the screamer looking all sweet and innocent.
Coffee – Balu’s brother. This boy was also a favourite of mine,
he bore no cheek from youngsters on the line who tried to
muscle in on his position, and he pulled like a tractor the
whole time. One of the hardest working dogs I’ve seen, and
friendly to boot.
This is Mowgli, a young dog bred to become a sprint racing
dog. As you can see he bears no resemblance to the huskies
and looks rather cold! He is mostly GSP.
This young girl pup just loved to stand in her bowl with half her
body outside her run making sure we noticed her.
So for three days straight I got a complete dog fix, got to feed, water and snack them (with raw frozen salmon mind you!), drove a sled both on my own and with Tim sitting in it, found out that in winter 34 dogs go through around 1000 kilograms of meat every 5 or 6 weeks with not an ounce of fat to be seen and that these dogs are all kept entire both males and females and they will still work when in season and the males who might be distracted as youngsters quickly realise that the urge to run and pull is far stronger! I found out that when holding onto the sled and Pasi our guide yells back to Tim to ask if he’s OK? The dogs will take off (just like our agility dogs do!)….I learnt how to harness and unharness them, how to hook them up on the lines, which dogs would come when called and which ones had to be humoured into coming (usually the ones with a bit of Sibe in them I noticed!) I got to know most of their names quite well and I had some favourites, there were three brothers they’re 4 yrs old, Alaskan huskies or mostly Alaskan, known as the Mafia Brothers because of their strength and Trojan like work ethic – Coffee, Balu and Sarek, these guys along with their veteran mate, 75% very old Siberian lines, 9 year old Bore (pronounced Burr- reh) certainly earned my respect and admiration (not that they cared for either so long as they got their snacks and got to run) for their pure joy in just running and pulling.
Lacoyta was such a friendly striking dog as well and he worked as hard as any of them. Gizmo, their Sibe cross was known very quickly due to his habit of screaming (literally one long rahhhhhhhhhhhhh) when on the line and not actually going anywhere. He definitely preferred being on the right side of the line though, it was interesting how some of the dogs didn’t care which side they were on and others had a distinct preference.
Yes I am driving a sled with a team of 7 dogs, it was awesome!
Targa and Stargate are in the lead, followed by Balu by himself,
then Bore and Yako with Coffee and Schneeman in the rear.
Balu contemplating how many circles he should make before
he curls up in the snow.
Schneeman taking care of ice on the paw
Yako looking pissed the humans have decided to stop.
Targa of the very short coat knows how to make the most of it.
Bore watching Pasi in case of any possible snacks.
Stargate, pure one hundred percent Alaskan Husky
straight from Alaska. A timid girl she eventually came
to believe I meant no harm especially when I slipped her
a couple of the human snacks.
Balu having made his decision on the number of circles,
keeps an eye open in case the humans change their mind
It is hard to describe just how quiet and solitary it was out here.
We truly felt as if we were in another world.
Our attempts at ice fishing saw one small bite and then nothing.
We think the word got out below when we put him back.
Our final day in Lapland we spent the day snowmobiling,
not quite as much fun as driving a dog sled but certainly
convenient for stopping when *you* wanted to.
Tim is trying for ‘Landscape photo of the Year’ here. The
scenery was quite simply breath taking.
We snowmobiled up a mountain where the rain had not reached.
The snow was over a meter thick in places. I managed to bog my
snowmobile, but I take solace that I managed to not fall off once!
Lapland was a truly amazing experience and I can see why there is the pull there for people to leave their high stress jobs in Stockholm and just simply take root in this beautiful wilderness. Dog Sledding is very addictive and if I lived anywhere like this I would surely be completely involved with this sport. If anyone is considering trying out Europe for sledding holiday I cannot recommend Pasi in Swedish Lapland highly enough, he can be found through Patrick of “Magic Lapland” and is soon to to have his own business (Echoes of the North) offering dog sled tours. He looks after his dogs and his clients very well and treats them with the utmost respect, he is always ready to answer any questions no matter how mundane and he is extremely flexible in catering for whatever you the tourist choose to do. Dog sledding is not easy and is not always like the images or ads that you see of a guy just standing there doing nothing except holding on while the dogs do everything, you do have to steer a sled and you will hurt at the end of the day, shoulder and arm muscles ache and you will fall off. As far as I see it that was all part of the excitement of the whole experience of learning how to handle a sled. You may only want to do a one hour trip or you may be gung-ho and wish to do a whole day trip or an overnight stay in the wilderness, Pasi caters for all types and is prepared for any suggestion.
So there you go my Lapland experience, any questions/comments? Just drop it in the comment box.