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.
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
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk – Winter Hiking Wonder
Banff Family Activities For Toddlers, Teens and Grandma
10 Tips To Make Skiing Fun For Kids
I did this once as a little teaser, it was basically just around a small track. If I had the chance to do this in a more open space, I would do it in a second.
Amy a dog sledding ‘teaser’ sounds like it did the trick. We have done a dog sled tour a couple of times. One was in bright sunshine and the other a snowstorm. Both were incredible. Hoping you get to experience this one day. Thanks so much for sharing the post on Twitter. Very much appreciated.
Although, I’ve never been on a dog sled, I have watched them. It’s clear the dogs love it and it’s a joy to witness their joy.
Ingrid I agree it is one of the best things about dog sledding. Seeing the pups so happy and being able to interact with them at rest stops is a big part of the pleasure of it all.
I have never been dog sledding but I just love the Husky dogs. I didn´t realize there were that many dog sledding companies in Alberta. It would be a great experience!
Darlene I am thinking Amanda would love to try dogsledding in one of your future books! Of course you will need to do the research. 🙂
I have to admit I was surprised at the number of dog sledding operators myself once I started doing the research. Hopefully I haven’t missed any.
It must be amazing to be pulled along by so many dogs! My dogs have always been snowmobiles.
John it is an amazing experience. I chuckled at your snowmobile ‘dog sledding’. We have done that as well. I assume this was when you lived in Michigan?
That looks like so much fun. Great pic of the three of you in the sled. Dave looks like an absolute expert. 😀
It was all warm and cozy in the dog sled Sylvia. Dave didn’t dump us out so he gets bonus points for that. Definitely lots of fun.
Dave wouldn’t dare to dump you both out. 😀
Haha true enough!
Another adventure I’d love to try when we next visit you in the wintertime 🙂 The photo of the three of you is truly a classic! The smiles on the humans and the dogs is perfect. ~Wendy
One more for the list Wendy. At this rate you will need to book in for a month. Well that’s an excellent idea!
The happy mood in both dogs and people shines through in the photo to be sure. A treasured memory of the adventure.
what an wonderful thing to consider for when the world reopens!
and i have said this before – but i really love the way you set up posts with a TOC and the right opening and right amount or photos!
So kind of you to give that feedback. Perhaps it speaks to my love of organization. 🙂
Here’s to the world re-opening. Till then happy to share Canadian adventures virtually. Xo
I have never been dog sledding, but it is something that I would absolutely love to do. How gorgeous are those Husky dogs? Did one of them have one brown eye and one blue eye? Alberta sounds a great place for this activity, thank you for all the tips and list of recommended places.
You are the first person to notice the two different eye colours Gilda! Such a beautiful dog. Winter isn’t the easiest time to visit Canada but dog sledding is certainly one of the things that can be a high point of the season.
Hi guys! Once again you have brought back a nice memory for me. I did the dog sledding in 2007 when I was working up in Alaska. It was one of the many perks we could enjoy. I remember our helicopter landing at the camp and the dogs were always so excited to see the arrival as they knew they were to go out for a good run. I got to experience the mushing and the ride on the sled. Glad to see that you continue to enjoy all these winter snow Canadian adventures.
Ginger we love hearing about your adventures and travel memories. I could visualize the excitement of the dogs as the helicopter landed. It is the pure joy the dogs have that struck me both times we went dog sledding.
It’s bitterly cold this week but for the most part we are continuing to get outside and find the beauty in our own backyard. Hoping you are doing well and very best wishes to you.
Those dogs look happy leaping ahead in the snow!
Jean they love to run. Once they are harnessed in they bark like impatient toddlers until they are allowed to go.
Hi, Sue – Thank you for this awesome and informative post. Dog-sledding is high on the travel list for my husband and me. It is one of the first winter trips that we plan to take when we can travel again!
Thank you for the company recommendations.
Donna I think you will enjoy a dog sledding adventure! There is no shortage of operators to choose from in Alberta. We did our tours with Snowy Owl however I have read excellent things about all the operators listed.
I’ve never been dog-sledding, but it looks like a lot of fun! I’m rarely cold even when the temperatures dip low… but only if I can move around. As soon as I have to sit still, I’m miserably cold in short order. If you’re a passenger, is it difficult to stay warm when the dogsled is under way?
It sounds like the mushing or driving of the sled might be more your style Diane. When there is a hill the musher helps push with a foot so it can really be quite a workout. The sled covering is windproof material with blankets and padding so it was pretty cozy. Still one needs to dress warmly.
This would be a wonderful adventure.
We definitely recommend dog sledding should you find yourself in Alberta in winter.
Sue I was so glad to read that the companies pride themselves on humane treatment of the huskies. Okay, I could continue further. And yes of course dogs can smile! Esco smiles every single day when we get to the beach and his buddy Zippo has the widest smile, shows his teeth, that you could imagine. It’s very human like.
These huskies are SO gorgeous. Strangely we see a lot of huskies here at the beach in Oaxaca, and wonder how they survive the humidity. Love the first photo where the dog has two different coloured eyes. Their fur has such a wide range of colours in your photos, beautiful.
Okay, so we are complete neophytes about dog sleights and have no idea what dog mushing might be?? Thank you for this first introduction to this winter sport.
Peta (& Ben)
As dog lovers I think you would so enjoy interacting with these sled dogs. It’s one of the parts of the experiences we have had that gave me the most joy. They can barely contain themselves when it is time to run. Such a joy to see the guides and owners adoring them, making sure they only run once or twice a day and knowing each of their personalities.
Dog mushing is where you are the driver of the sled. The guide trains you in commands and at first will ride the sled beside you. The dogs left to their own enthusiasm, would keep happily running on and on. Thus the rule to never let go of the sled.
I can not imagine how hot the huskies on the beach must be. I suppose they acclimate after a time?
How delightful to introduce you to dog sledding. A chilly but marvelous activity, especially for dog lovers.
We’ve been sledding a few times. I’ve been in the fall when they put wheels on the sleds, that was a lot of fun. They are very careful to make sure the dogs don’t get overheated (no trips when it is warmer than 65 F). I always love visiting the puppy kennel. Beyond cute!!
I had not heard of the dog sledding on wheels but it makes good sense to keep the pups trained during the off season. We found the guides and owners very cautious about the dogs well being and I’m glad to hear that was your experience as well. Oh the puppy kennel would be amazing. I would love it!
What a fantastic post! Thanks, Sue, for the comprehensive list and history of dog sledding. Another one of your spirited and brave adventures in the snow…I never ever tire of seeing what else you two have done in the Canadian wild. I loved the photos, too. That dog in photo #2 has two different eye colors and is so beautiful. In the next photo, at first I didn’t recognize you two, and then when I read the caption I laughed outloud. Because you two are simply amazing! Thanks for taking us on this super dog sledding adventure.
The sled dog with the blue and brown eye is amazing! We couldn’t get enough of him. One of the dog sledding adventures was a gift from Dave’s Mom and she came along so we had a wonderful time together. Treasured memories to have always. Thanks so much for your visit Jet. Always happy to share more of our ‘backyard’ with you.
I’m very happy to hear that the dogs are happy about their “jobs.” We are so primed these days to watch out for the unethical treatment of animals for humans’ pleasure, so it’s nice to see a two-species activity that is pleasing to both! We have a husky grand-dog here in Colorado, and she is the sweetest thing ever. I’d love to do this someday!
Lexie when I was compiling this post I did so knowing that readers many wonder about the treatment. I’m glad it came across how well loved the sled dogs are and how enthusiastic they are about running. How wonderful that you have husky in the family. Such beautiful pups. I will hope that one day you get your wish to go dog sledding.
As you can imagine, my experience with anything related to snow is very limited. It was only two years ago that I finally went to a place with a lot of snow, and it was in Lebanon of all places. I was so happy to be there, to be surrounded by all the whiteness, although living in such place is a different story. Dog sledding looks really fun, and should I ever come to Alberta, or any other place that also does this, I know I must give it a try.
Bama I imagine this would be a unique adventure for you. I think with your sense of adventure, and enough warm clothes you would enjoy dog sledding. it does seem unusual that Lebanon would be the place you experienced snow but my guess is there are high elevations within the country. We remain hopeful that one day will find you in Alberta. Summer may be an easier time to visit but as you can see there certainly are winter wonders here. Hope you are well Bama. Best wishes from both of us.
What fun. So many companies offering this. Was it crowded?
We did our dog sledding pre pandemic but even then this is an activity that must be pre-booked. Reading throug hthe COVID protocols on each site it is even further regulated now with masks required.
Great post Sue!! Love the pictures and it sure looks like fun!! The dogs are adorable and I didn’t notice the two eye colors on the one dog until I read Jet’s comment…so cute!! Again, looks like great fun….thanks for sharing!
Kirt should you ever find yourself in Alberta in the winter , this is an activity we definitely recommend. The sled dogs each have a personality and the one with the different eyes a special dog indeed. Thanks so much for the visit and enthusiastic feedback. Always appreciated.
This looks like so much fun! And you all look so cozy in the sled!
The dogs are smiling for sure!
Fun! Fun! Fun!
Nancy I’m glad you can see everyone’s joy including the dogs. Cozy and fun indeed.
Another amazing adventure by the looks and sounds of it, Sue. So many companies to pick from! I’ve heard about the Iditarod, but never watched it on TV. I’ve also never gone on a dog sledding tour, but it must be invigorating. And you know how much I LOVE dogs. Huskies are incredible creatures. I like how some of them have two different colored eyes. I’ve met a few of them, owned by friends and strangers, but I’ll most likely never own one. They need to run and they are escape artists. Norway you can hike with them off leash… 🙂 If I ever spend a winter in Alaska (which is something I’d like to do, once, but Mark doesn’t), I’d certainly go dog sledding!
I can definitely appreciate how much huskies like to run. If dogs could giggle it seemed these pups where chuckling at their excitement. Alaska in winter sounds like quite an adventure! I think the very short days, ours our fairly short already, would be the toughest part. At any rate I hope you get the chance to go dog sledding.
Sue, my only experience of dog sledding is to see them in movies. It fascinates me. Often the depiction includes the connection between human and dogs, and of course there is always a stunning landscape involved.
I hadn’t really considered the history between humans and dogs as a form of transport before. I was quite surprised reading there has been a 4000 year history. Fascinating.