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Dog power, not horse power, drives popular tourist attraction

Staff writers
February 9, 2013 — It's an old mode of transportation that's slowing coming back in vogue. Kelsey McEwen reports on dogsledding in Alberta.

This 180-dog "pack" is made up of six different breeds.
This 180-dog "pack" is made up of six different breeds.

For hundreds of years, dog sledding was one of the primary modes of transportation in the Great White North. Today, the popularity of the sport is on the rise, with many Canadians incorporating it as part of their winter holiday.

In Alberta's Rocky Mountains, a trip to Kananaskis Country can seem like being transported back to a time when dog power mattered more than horse power.

"When I'm trying to explain to people what it's like, I can't!" Jereme Arsenault of Snowy Owl Tours says. "There's nothing like it. I just always tell guests, if it's not going to be the most awesome thing you do in your lifetime, it should be top three."

It seems many Canadians agree. The family began with just six dogs 30 years ago. They're up to 180 pooches today, with nearly 12,000 people coming for the dogsledding experience every winter.

But even with the boom, from day one, it's been all about man's best friend.

"We grew up in a mobile home, so all the raw meat that we used to feed out dogs would thaw out in the entry ways and you know, the dining room table was our office and all the blankets and harnesses would hang on our doors at night to dry, and puppies were born under our beds," Arsenualt recalls. "To us, it was totally normal but when my friends came over, they were always pretty surprised."

Depending on the tour, the dogs can run anywhere from 40 to 60 km in a single day. It sounds like a lot by human standards, but Carlin Kimble says they think it's a lot of fun.

"Our dogs are considered a family, they are a pack," she says. "And they look out for each other as much as they look out for us, so when you're going down the trail and you have six dogs you've never met before listening to everything you say, and doing everything that you're asking, it's a pretty incredible experience."

This particular pack is made up of six different breeds, each with their own personality -- the Siberian husky, often seen in films, the Seppala Siberian, Canadian Inuit Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Alaskan Husky and Canadian Indian Husky.

"So quite the variety in our family," Kimble says.

With files from Kelsey McEwen.

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