Dog Sledding Tour (Whistler)

February 6, 2012

While looking for new snowshoeing trails, we ended driving on the Sea-to-Sky highway. The sunny day brought us views of Mount Garibaldi, the only major Pleistocene age volcano in North America known to have formed upon a glacier.

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Mount Garibaldi as seen from Squamish

Just before Whistler you can see the signs of Whistler Olympic Park. The park opened in 2008 and was built at a cost of nearly $120 million Canadian dollars. This venue included three separate stadiums for cross-country skiing, biathon and ski jumping.

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Countdown clock for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

These days WOP's meat-and-potatoes is a 56 km system of groomed beginner, intermediate and advanced trails wending over plateau and through coastal forest.

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To use the snowshoe trails you must pay $14. After the initial shock for something I have always done for free, it was time to continue looking for other destinations.

Coming back we have views of Black Tusk, for the Squamish people, this mountain is known as the "Landing Place of the Thunderbird". The jagged shape of the mountain and its black colouring are said to come from the Thunderbird's lightning.

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Black Tusk (2,319 m - 7,608 ft)

After leaving the WOP's gate I saw a road on the right side. After 300 meters I arrived to Blackcomb Dog Sled. I was told it was very unusual to see someone coming on their own because tours are usually brought by shuttle from Whistler.

Those Who Don't Ask Don't Get, and in my case a discount was made.

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Part of the tour is a visit to the Puppy Pen. In my case I also ended playing with Gunner, a beautiful German Shepherd and Goliath, the proud father of the puppies.

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Dog sled teams are put together with great care. Putting a dog sled team together involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs and wheel dogs. The lead dog is very treasured so mushers take particular care of these dogs.

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Safety Talk (always get out from the left side)

Several distinct dog breeds are in common use as sled dogs, although any sized breed may be used to pull a sled. Purebreed sled dogs range from the well-known Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute to rarer breeds such as the Mackenzie River Husky or the Canadian Eskimo Dog (Canadian Inuit Dog).

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Sled dogs are expected to demonstrate two major qualities in their work (apart from basic physical capability to pull sleds). Endurance is needed to travel the distances demanded in dogsled travel, which may be anything from 5 to 80 mi (8 to 129 km) or more a day.

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Speed is needed to travel the distance in a reasonable length of time. Over longer distances, average traveling speed declines to 10 to 14 mph (16 to 23 km/h). In poor trail conditions, sled dogs can average 6 or 7 mph (9.7 or 11 km/h).

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The business around the area was afected for the alleged inhumane slaughtering of sled dogs by Howling Dog Tours Whistler. On May 5, 2011 B.C. SPCA investigators removed 56 bodies from a grave near Whistler.

In December 2011, Joey Houssian, owner of the company, donated all company assetts for a not-for-profit foundation called the Sled Dog Foundation.

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Golden Ears

The foundation now owns and manage the sledding operation, with proceeds going towards the improvement of animal welfare for sled dogs.

For Blackcomb Dog Sled, the dogs are well treated, are approachable and mellow. They can appear thin because they are a husky/hound cross and they burn up to 6,000 calories a day. For this reason they are fed high-protein dog food and raw meat.

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Sunset at Howe Sound

When a sled dog is about 10 years old, or has injuries or other circumstances that prevent it from running, it is retired. Some mushers keep retired sled dogs as pets, some sell or give them to other people, and some are scooped up by rescue groups to be cared for and/or placed in a new home. Life expectancy for sled dogs is around 12 to 15 years

How to get there

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Visit Blackcomb Dog Sled for instructions.

Otherwise, if you want to try your luck, from Vancouver drive towards Whistler and look for the signs for Whistler Olympic Park. The entrance is three kilometers before the ticket booth. You will see a bunch of parked cars on the left side brought by rogue cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Drive 300 meters, put a big smile and cross your fingers there are some spots available.

Driving distance from Vancouver: 120 km (74.5 mi)
Driving time from Vancouver: Approx. 2 hours

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