Earlier this year, during my trip to Lapland, I got the opportunity to experience mushing in the Arctic. It was, by far, one of the most magical experiences of my life. A moment of pure connection with nature surrounded by breathtaking scenery: the Arctic forest.
Mushing, that used to play an important role in the life of Arctic inhabitants, has been slowly substituted by snow motorbikes. For the locals, mushing has become more of a sport than a way to move. For the tourists (like me), it has turned into an unmissable activity to discover this freezing region.
Because I consider this one of my greatest experiences traveling, I’ve thought I’d share with you my experience. How it was for me to go mushing? Where did I do it? With which company and for how much? All the practical information that you might need and I’ve been able to think of, you will find it in the post. If you have any other question not covered in this post, leave it in the comments and I’ll answer you with as much information as I can.
Also, because in my trip I was able to understand the huge impact that mushing had in the development of Arctic population, I thought it would be great to share (for those of you interested) a bit of the history of mushing at the end of the post.
MY EXPERIENCE MUSHING
Where Did I Do It?
Activities related to dogsledding and Arctic traditions can be experienced in a lot of places. Despite that, they are especially popular among tourists in countries like Canada, Norway, and Finland. In my case, I did it in Finland during a road trip in Lapland.
With Which Company Did I Organize It?
Despite there are many companies in Lapland offering dogsledding activities, I decided to take ours with the company Hetta Huskies because of its values. This company, that won in 2015 the 1st Prize in Best Animal Welfare Initiative in the World Travel Market of London, strives in promoting responsible mushing in the Arctic Polar Circle.
Which Ride Did I Book?
Initially, we between the Northern Light tour (6km) for 90€/person or the Silent Landscapes tour (6km) for 75€/person. Since there was no availability for the first one (it is quite limited), we finally booked the Silent Landscapes tour (6km).
The booking process through email was really smooth. We were fastly advised of the no availability in order to be able to decide what we preferred to do with enough time.
What Did The Responsible Mushing Activity Consist Of?
As part of the experience and previously to the dog sledding excursion, the employees of Hetta Huskies:
- Verified that we wore the appropriate clothing to spend 1 hour and a half at -30ºC. In case you were not properly equipped, they supplied you with extra clothing like scarfs, warmer jackets, shoes, etc.
- Explained who they were and where they came from. They shared with us why they decided to move to such a harsh climate too.
- Showed us the different areas where the dogs live. Also explaining why they kept some alone and others more surrounded by other dogs, etc.
- Taught us about the different types of huskies and how dogsleds are set up depending on the roles of each dog.
Once we were familiar with the dogs’ home and the theory, we moved into the practical part of the activity. First of all, we were introduced to our dog team and our dog sled. While they were finishing to organize everything, we had some time to interact with our team and cuddle our dogs.
Later, once in the dog sleds, they made a demonstration on how to drive the sled and what to pay attention to. The distance with the dog sled ahead of us, the control of the speed in tiny roads or checking that no dog got entangled with the harness are fundamental aspects for the animals’ safety and also for yours.
When the explanation was done and all doubts were clarified, we started our ride. The employees of Hetta Huskies separated along the dog sleds caravan to control everything was running smoothly and according to the rules.
My Opinion On The Experience:
Despite dog sledding is a very typical activity to enjoy Arctic countries, I usually am a bit concerned to do activities with animals. Why? Because until you experience it you never know if you are favoring the preservation of these animals/traditions or participating in the exploitation of them. That’s why when I found Hetta Huskies, read about their idea to promote responsible mushing and went through their TripAdvisor evaluations, I felt somehow calmer to do this activity.
When the day finally arrived, I was beyond excited. Despite the -30ºC degrees and my lack of adaptation to freezing environments, I enjoyed the whole activity from beginning to end. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
The volunteer leading our activity was really cheerful and passionate about her work. She provided us with a lot of information on mushing, the Huskies and the interaction between them – which was not only interesting to know but also to see later in the ride.
About the ride… I am still speechless. The connection with the dogs of our team was one of the purest I’ve ever experienced. For a while, we were only one moving towards the same direction. We were a team. I had to take care of them and pay attention so they didn’t get hurt. They, in exchange, took me to the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. This moment of connection is stuck in my mind and keeps me thinking… “Can I repeat it all over again?” 😉
THE ORIGIN OF MUSHING
Although the origin of dogsledding it’s considered to be quite unclear (due to the lack of written sources) it is believed that it appeared for the first time around 4.000 years ago in an undetermined area of the Arctic. There are many affirming that this undeterminated area was Siberia but also many others stating it was North America. However, there’s still not enough proof to support any of both theories. What it is confirmed by anthropologists is that the appearance of mushing was fundamental for the development and survival of the tribes living in the Arctic, since it allowed them to have a faster supply of foods and provisions.
Another anecdote about dog sledding is that it was not until the 18th century when the world “mushing” was born. It appeared for the first time after the defeat of the French by the British in the Quebec battle and the conquest of the Canadian Shield. The British, who had recently arrived at the area, observed the coureurs des bois (the name given to dogsled drivers). They realized that the “forest runners” shouted “marche!” to the dogs for letting them now they had to start moving. It was the British, who wrongly interpreted “marche” as “mush”, that created this word and all the related terminology.