Tourisme Charlevoix

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22 December 2020Mylène Simard

Dog sledding, from the pawprints of yesteryear to the high speeds of today

As far back as the 1890s, Aboriginal people and employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company used sled dogs to transport people, food and goods over long distances across frozen lakes and streams, and through dense snow-covered forests.

In the Yukon, specifically during the Gold Rush era, dog sledding was the most efficient form of travel and played a major role in transporting mail, gold and other essential goods.

chenil_du_sportif_01m Photo : Chenil du Sportif

Interestingly, early French-Canadian drivers frequently used “Marche!” (which translates as ‘walk’ in French) to order their dogs to start. So the French expression became ‘Marchers’ which eventually evolved to the term we know of today: “Mush!”. A good ‘musher’ develop a special bond with their dogs, knowing how to care for them and reward them, yet also imposing enough authority to remain leader of the pack.

Within a sled team, each dog has a specific role. Teams of two to twelve dogs, sometimes more, are attached in pairs to a rope connected to the sled called a centerline. The ‘lead dogs’ are generally the most powerful and are placed at the front of the sled. The musher simply uses their voice to guide and direct the one or two lead dogs at the front who react to the commands and steer the pack accordingly.

Today, dog sledding is still a major tourist attraction in many regions of Quebec, especially in Charlevoix. The best way to fully experience the thrill of the pack’s furry & fiery spirits is to experience a once in a lifetime dog sledding excursion.

Photo : André-Olivier Lyra
Photo : André-Olivier Lyra

But prepare yourself, as a dog sledding experience is about more than just the ride itself. From the earliest signs, the dogs sense the journey coming and their excitement peaks, readying themselves to do what they love most: Run! With their attachments on, they take their place one by one on the centreline exuding an equal mix of discipline and impatience. The musher keeps their feet firmly on the brake until the long-awaited moment arrives and the dogs set off at full speed down the trail.

The team quickly picks up momentum so you have to learn to keep control, tame your sled and trust your dogs. In just a few seconds, you will become a team perfectly in sync with each other and nature.

Your guide will demonstrate how to position yourself correctly on your sled and how best to perform turns, climbs and descents in complete harmony with your team. Once mastered, it’s now time to relax, contemplate your surroundings and lose yourself in the stunning, snow-covered landscapes. To the sounds of the dogs’ panting breath, the creaking of the sled’s wood and the crunching of paws on the snow beneath, let yourself be transported.

So on your next visit to Charlevoix, discover these animal welfare respectful kennels full of furry friends ready to offer you a unique dog sledding experience that will race through your mind and soul forever.

_YRA4225 Photo : André-Olivier Lyra
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