The dryland racing on wheels that I enjoy in the UK is great for what is available by way of trails, terrain, distance and temperate weather, but sled dogs really come alive in the snow and when temperatures drop below zero.
Vlad and Harry
I am lucky enough to know friends that moved to Swedish Lapland this year so I took the opportunity in February to travel with my dogs (5 Alaskan Malamutes, 2 Scandinavian hounds and 1 German Shepherd Dog), to visit for some training and fun in the snow.
Chanel and Bolt at home in the snow
The drive up was not without incident as the EGR valve on the van decided to pack up and I had to limp a good few miles, including through Stockholm in the rush hour, and be very polite to some Swedish Mercedes mechanics to persuade them to replace it. Once we were back on the road though, the journey improved and the next stop was to get studded tyres fitted. These proved to be essential for travel in the North of Sweden on the ungraded ice roads. I was soon cruising along like the natives up the centre line just moving to the side to pass and keeping well away from the soft snowy edges that will pull a vehicle off the road if you touch them. Moose lights would have been a good addition to the van to light up the dark edges but despite many signs warning of moose crossings I did not see any of the shy creatures. However, I was lucky enough to pass through a herd of reindeer on the way home. The Sami herders put up sticks with bin bags on them to warn drivers that the reindeer are about.
Eventually, after some 5 days of travel including 3 ferries and 1,800 miles of driving, I pulled up outside the beautiful traditional red and white painted wooden house belonging to my friends, owners of the Coppernose Kennel Trail Cabins. I then enjoyed two weeks training with the dogs on the lovely groomed trails through gorgeous fir tree forests, over frozen marshes and around the frozen lake. Trails distances ranged from 2 miles to as far as you could want to go (as they can link in to the snow mobile network). There was also time to fit in trips to the local Ski resort at Kittelfjall, scenic drives for photo opportunities of sparkling snow crystals, lakes, waterfalls and ice features, shopping in Storuman and Vilhelmina, night fires by the lake, snowmobiling and snowshoeing up to ‘Bear’s Den’. Obligingly the Northern Lights made a spectacular appearance one night and the lack of light pollution made the night skies fantastic for star gazing. Temperatures plummeted to -25C for a couple of days but the dryness of the cold makes it quite bearable with the correct clothing.
By the end of our stay my sledding skills had improved dramatically and the dogs were definitely a lot fitter than when we arrived. They should be good and ready to complete the final Sled Dog Association of Scotland Championship race of this season.