Can dogs smile? With their warm breath hanging in crisp winter air, the husky sled dogs appear to grin in anticipation. Dog sledding in Alberta is often done on snow covered lakes with soaring mountains acting as the backdrop. Either the dogs are thrilled with the view or more likely, the joy of running.
Priding themselves on the humane and loving care the sled dogs are given year-round, one just must watch the guides for mere minutes to know this is not just about business.
How it is possible to know a hundred plus dogs by name and which are older, younger, shy, or noisy? Well fed and rested, these pups are much loved by their owners.
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History of the Dog Sleigh in Alberta
Archaeological evidence suggests that in Arctic regions, dogs and humans have had working relationships for over 4000 years. Canadian Inuit and First Nations peoples were foremost in utilizing a husky sled dogs in their day to day existence.
Meanwhile, Spanish horse, which became a western icon, arrived a mere 400 years ago.
In the Northern reaches of the Canadian Arctic, the Inuit people, as well as early settlers in the Alberta Rockies, used dog sleds as a mode of transport.
Since that time, dog sledding has become a recreational activity, well suited to the expansive snow covered terrain of Alberta in winter.
Tips for Dog Sled Rides
-Dress in warm layers for dog sled adventures including a fleece jacket and insulated, windproof winter parka. Also wear snow pants or fleece pants with waterproof pants over.
-Wear well insulated boots above the ankle because sneakers and dog mushing do not mix.
-Wear a warm toque or hat that covers your ears. Also insulated mittens or gloves for your dog sleigh outing are essential.
-Goggles or sunglasses will protect your eyes from wind and sun. In addition, bring sunscreen. Yes sunburn on a husky sled is possible.
-Bring a small daypack to hold snacks, water, extra warm layers and a camera.
-Lastly, if your dog sled adventure includes learning dog mushing, the number one rule is never let go of the sled. Unless you are hoping for dog sled rides to the North Pole.
Where To Go Dog Sledding in Alberta
Below is a list of companies that provide dog sled tours throughout the province of Alberta. We have not personally gone dog sledding with all of them. Links to each of the dog sled adventures is included for your own research purposes.
Howling Dog Tours – Canmore, Alberta
‘The Howling Dog Tours office is located at Unit 105, 712 Bow Valley Trail in Canmore, Alberta. All tours take place in the beautiful Spray Lakes Provincial Park, approximately 30 km south east of Banff on the Smith-Dorian Hi-way. We pick up at all major hotels in Banff and Canmore. Out of town guests can meet at our centrally located Canmore office.’ (excerpt from Howling Dog Tours website)
Mad Dogs and Englishmen Sled Dog Expeditions – Canmore, Alberta
‘Approximately 45 minutes drive south of Canmore along the Smith Dorien highway is the Spray Lake. This lake tucked away behind the ‘Goat’ mountain range bordering the East flank of Banff National Park presents you with some of the wildest areas in Kananaskis Country and the Rocky Mountains. It is here along its 24 Km length that ‘Mad Dogs’ offers most of our dog sled & ski-joring tours. This pristine wilderness area offers incredible mountain vistas for the photographer, and a winter playground for the outdoor enthusiast.’ (excerpt from mad Dogs and Englishmen Sled Dogs Expeditions website)
Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours – Canmore, Alberta
‘Our trail head is located in Spray Valley Provincial Park, part of the iconic Kananaskis Country in Alberta, Canada. Our trails are nestled between vast mountain ranges, streams, rivers, glaciers, lakes, ponds and towering forests. However, before heading up into this beautiful back country for your tour, everyone is required to check-in at our office location, located at #109 – 829 10th St. Canmore, Alberta’ (excerpt from Snowy Owl Sled Dog tours website)
Elevation Sled Dog Adventures – Grande Prairie, Alberta
‘Aaron Peck and his Elevation Huskies are one of the top distance sled dog teams in Canada. They compete annually in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the longest and toughest sled dog race in the world. Book your adventure and learn all about these amazing sled dog athletes and feel what it is like to ride the runners behind some of the best sled dogs in the world!’ (excerpt from Elevation Sled Dog Adventures website)
Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding – Jasper, Alberta
‘Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding has been providing Jasper National Park and the Robson Valley with their unique winter adventures since 1998. Because such winter activities as dog sledding are not currently permitted in the Parks, enthusiasts have to travel outside their boundaries in order to participate. The 120km drive from Jasper is very scenic. You will have the opportunity to see Mount Robson – highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and possibly even a moose, lynx or pack of wolves near Moose Lake along your way. (excerpt from Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding website)
Seppala Siberian Tours – Kitscoty, Alberta
Dog sled tours in Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Recreational Area and in Elk Island National Park. Year round kennel visits to learn more about Seppala Siberian sled dogs.
Kingmik Dog Sled Tours – Lake Louise and Banff, Alberta
‘We offer dog sledding tours in beautiful Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a treasured lifetime memory, come mushing with our happy and hard-working Alaskan huskies. Kingmik guides have many years of experience “on the runners” in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and the lower 48.’ (excerpt from Kingmik Dog Sled Tours website)
Wild Forest Adventures – Crooked Creek, Alberta (greater Grande Prairie area)
‘We are located east of Crooked Creek on Highway 43, 70 miles east of Grande Prairie. Our dogsledding tours happen on our very own home trails and explore some of the beautiful bush of Northern Alberta.
We make responsible care and humane treatment of all animals our mission. We are dedicated to enhance the care and treatment of sled dogs in their traditional and modern uses.’ (Excerpt from Wild Forest Adventures website)
Have you been dog sledding?
Originally written in Feb 2021, this article has been updated to publication date.
Other articles on Alberta winter activities