OK, the animals are sled dogs. Now, is the contraption they drag around called a dog sled?
Just one of the many questions I had the first time I got to take a sled team out into the field. There are people who still have sled dog teams, but they are getting fewer and fewer. Some hard-core hunters who travel out into the bush for days or even weeks, but mostly people keep them to race, or for the tourism industry.
We chose the latter option.
The dog teams were great. They were big beautiful white huskies, powerful and very, very fast.
We were taught a couple of very basic things we could shout, to ideally make the dogs go right, left, or stop. That kind of went out the window as soon as we took off and the dogs roughly stayed to their well-known path.
To drive the sled, you actually stand on two rudders that extend through the back of the sled. There are a couple of ways to slow down, and stop. Our sleds had a small piece of track from a snowmobile that flopped on the ground near your feet between the rudders. Step on that, and it slowed the sled down. If you had to stop quickly –there was a bar between the rudders and if you stomped down on it hooks dug into the ground.
Ok, got all that? That is about as much training we got before we took off.
The dogs had been through this routine enough where everything was going great. Then, we hit the first big downhill run. I muddled through OK, periodically pumping the brake (the rubber track from an old snowmobile).
But photographer Andrew Smith wasn’t so lucky.
He was looking down for the track –instead of feeling for it with his foot and boom –the dogs ran off course, his sled hit a snowbank, and he flipped.
Luckily we had several GoPro cameras on the sled so here is a close up look and Andrew taking the plunge.
BTW – he and the dogs were completely fine!
Learning to drive a dog sled the hard wayThe CCTV America crew give driving a dog sled a whirl. Unfortunately they didn't get much training beforehand.