Dogsledding in the Great White North

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To look at Dave Daley, with his long ponytail, hooded sweatshirt, and lanky frame, you probably wouldn't guess a lot of things about him.

For example, you probably wouldn't guess that he's in his 50s. Or that he serves as the main airplane mechanic in the small community of Churchill, Manitoba. Or that he is a proud Metis. Or that he is kind of a big deal in the dogsledding world.

But all of these things are true about this unassuming-looking man, who at first glance looks more suited for Venice Beach than the Canadian sub-arctic.

Dave Daley

I met Dave just outside Churchill, where he introduced me and a cabin full of bundled-up tourists to his vast team of sled dogs at Wapusk Adventures.

As a seasoned musher who even started his own sled race in Canada, Dave has a lot to say about the sport of dogsled racing. But, first and foremost, this man loves his dogs.

Wapusk Adventures sled dog

“You never, ever kick or hit a dog,” Dave tells us, emphasizing each word with a staccato hand motion. “Ever.” Dogs, he says, have to view their musher as an alpha male; a part of the pack, and not a human telling them what to do.

“So when I need to discipline them,” Dave says, “I act like the alpha — I pin them down and bite an ear.”

And no, he's not kidding. He even demonstrates this to us later when we head outside to meet some of his excitable dogs.

Wapusk Adventures

My experience at Wapusk Adventures solidified for me the opinion of dogsled racing that I formed last summer in Alaska — that it is NOT a cruel sport; that the dogs are crazy about running; and that the mushers often love their animals more than themselves.

Wapusk Adventures

Dave picked up his dogs for a cuddle, tussled with them in the snow, and told us that winning the veterinarian's award after a long race meant more to him than coming in first place.

Wapusk Adventures

And then, of course, after learning about Dave, his dogs, and the Hudson Bay Quest (the race Dave himself started years ago in Canada, and one he would go on to win a few days after I met him), it was time for us to get a taste of dogsledding ourselves.

Dogsledding with Wapusk Adventures

Dogsledding with Wapusk Adventures

Wapusk Adventures is located out on the tundra of northern Manitoba, and Dave has set up a mile-long trail that tourists get to race around, pulled by teams of Dave's beautiful dogs. He calls it the “Ididamile” — a play on the famous Iditarod dogsled race that Dave's Hudson Bay Quest is actually a qualifier for.

Dogsledding with Wapusk Adventures

With two guests and an experienced musher on each sled, you don't exactly zip around the Ididamile — but that doesn't mean it's not fun. The dogs were so excited to run and the wintry setting was so perfect that none of us even minded the fact that our breaths were forming thin layers of ice on our scarves and (for the men and dogs) in our facial hair.

Wapusk Adventures

Wapusk Adventures sled dog

The thrill of dogsledding (and playing with happy, excitable sled dogs) is much better captured in photos and video than in words, however. So I'll leave you with this to enjoy:

Dogsledding with Wapusk Adventures

Wapusk Adventures


What do YOU think of dogsledding? Is it something you'd like to experience one day?



*Note: I was a guest of Travel Manitoba and Frontiers North Adventures (and Wapusk Adventures) on this trip. But, as always, all opinions are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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41 Comments on “Dogsledding in the Great White North

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  1. […] Seeing the Northern Lights is my number 1 bucket list activity. If we can’t see them in Alaska due to the time of year then this is my rather expensive fallback. Read this and tell me you don’t want to visit! […]

    Highlight of my trip to Alaska: Helicopter onto a glacier. Sled with dogs. Die happy. Repeat.

    (see link below for full recap.)

    Amanda, really enjoyed this post – beautifully written and fantastic photos! Now I want to go dog sledding in Canada, and I don’t even like cold weather (or snow!) 😉

      Whoo hoo! I have successfully done my job then. 😉

    I want to goooo!

    This is the post I was so looking forward to hearing about. I’ve wanted to go dog sledding forever and I can’t wait, can’t wait to do it!

      It’s such a fun experience – both the sledding itself, and playing with the dogs before and after. I’m not a dog person at all, but I loved every second of this.

    I feel like such a bad Canadian, I never went dogsledding 🙁 I really hope I can go soon! Gorgeous photos.

      You should definitely put it on your list! So much fun.

    Like the first comment I also visited Muktuk and had a pre-winter training run with a 4 wheel bike. I loved the dogs, gorgeous creatures and so well cared for. A proper run in snow would be fantastic to tick off one day. Great photos!

      I got a little taste of non-snow dog racing in Alaska last summer. But it’s definitely not the same as watching the dogs do their thing on snow!!

    Bucket list!! Your photos are incredible, I love the action shots of the dogs. They’re incredibly beautiful animals and it looks like you had a once in a lifetime experience.

      Definitely a bucket list item for me, too! Glad you enjoyed the photos!

    I’ve just become a biggest Polish fan of the musher:-) I love the way he treats the animals (or rather the way you described he treated them). This is so awesome!

    This post made my day 🙂 Love dogs! Cool video! Love the photo with a jumping dog 🙂

    It looks like so much fun! I’ve always dreamt of doing dogsledding. Glad you go to experience it!

      I’ve always wanted to do it “properly” like this, too. It was so much fun!

    Oh wow, that looks like so much fun! And the dogs really do look like they’re enjoying themselves too. I love that photo of the dog jumping whilst the rest are on the ground 😛 Fantastic timing!

      It took me a few tries to get that shot – but I’m glad I finally did. That dog was SO excited to run!

    the great white north completely impressed me… and dog sledding was such a unique adventure. great capture of the moments… no doubt Manitoba was a special place..
    stay adventurous, Craig

      Manitoba – and Churchill especially – is indeed a special place! Visiting Dave’s dog yard was definitely a highlight for me!

    Wow I am so envious!!! This is high on my bucket list if I can ever force myself to go even further north in the winter! I spent 24 hours with sled dogs in Whitehorse at Muktuk Kennels in September of 2010 but there was an early snow so it was too mucky for a training run with the dogs. I stayed over in their B & B and helped feed and water them and we took some of them down to the river for a run. Great fun. Also was entertained by Frank Turner who owns the kennels and has won the Yukon Quest several times – what an interesting man. He loves his dogs too. That was a big enough thrill for me but to go for a sled ride would be just the best thing ever! Thanks for sharing!!! By the way if you are looking for a good book to read about dog sledding from a tourist standpoint try “Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman” by Polly Evans. She talks about her time up in Whitehorse with Frank’s dogs – a great read!

      Still sounds like you had a fantastic experience with sled dogs!! Hopefully you’ll get another chance to go running with them!

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