My life as a husky musher
Earlier this year I had the pleasure to introduce my partner and guest blogger David to husky sledding on a winter break in Norway. Here is his uncensored recount of his experience of the authentic friluftsliv...
Me: What should I do to prepare?
Kirsi: A few pushups couldn’t hurt
I’ve never had a pet dog or even been skiing, unless you count one particularly difficult afternoon at Sheffield Ski Village which I’ve tried to erase from my memory. So as I boarded the plane to go husky sledding in Norway I honestly had no idea what to expect.
Our trip started with an evening flight from London Gatwick to Trondheim, during which we were lucky enough to catch an incredible showing of the northern lights. I’ve been lucky enough to see the northern lights a few times now and I have to say that from inside a warm plane at 30,000 feet was easily the best viewing conditions so far.
We spent the following day in Trondheim. For such a short stay it seemed like a great city to wander about, simply walking along the river uncovered some brilliant sights.
We also visited the (unexpectedly) gigantic Nidaros Cathedral and walked up to the Kristiansten Fortress on the hill for a view overlooking the city and the fjord it lies upon.
The following day we caught a train from Trondheim to Røros, the journey was described by our host in Røros as one of the more boring journeys in Norway, if that’s true then I’ll be returning to Norway soon to travel on some more of these “boring” train journeys.
We were met in Røros by our host Stian, the husky musher we would be spending the next few days with. All my concerns about the trip disappeared during the short chat we had in the car journey from the station to where we would be staying. Stian has a calm confident personality. Combining this with his incredible knowledge about his husky dogs and his experience as a teacher at a Norwegian folk school. He’s the perfect teacher for people like me who have no experience sledding and aren’t even sure if dogs can look up but are willing and eager to learn!
The following day we were out in the dog yard at 8am, introducing ourselves by feeding the dogs. At this point it became apparent to me that these dogs are really professional athletes. Their diets are carefully monitored and adjusted to ensure their well being and optimal racing performance.
After breakfast we put all our layers on and went back out into the yard to harness the dogs and venture out on the dog sleds. I won’t lie, dog sledding didn’t come naturally to me, at first it was a real struggle. After just a few minutes of struggling we stopped and Stian explained how I was sending confusing signals to the dogs “OK let’s go” followed by me pushing hard on the brake. It was easy to imagine the dogs thinking, “what does this guy want?”, “if we’re going, let us go!”. Sure enough after a bumpy start as I became more comfortable it started to become easier. As the driver you’re one of the team, if we’re heading up a hill then we all need to push.
The first part of our sledding journey was through a forest, following a path Stian had carefully set and maintained. Once we were through the trees I started to catch my breath, reflect on the lessons I’d learnt and appreciate the incredible surroundings we were in.
Norwegian folk schools teach students about “open-air living”, Friluftsliv in Norwegian. My understanding is this includes important practical skills for life outdoors but also an outdoor philosophy. During our trip out with the husky dogs, as we began to take our own path over fresh undisturbed snow the Norwegian open-air lifestyle became tremendously appealing.
The following day I happily put aside my past trauma from skiing on Sheffield’s infamous dry ski slope and we headed out cross-country skiing on a nearby frozen lake. I fell over, a lot. Out on the lake we found some previously drilled holes in the ice and I had my first try at ice fishing. Like most other forms of fishing I had little success, perhaps my constant falling over on the lake scared away the fish?
After our fishing trip we headed back to the cabin, relaxing for the remainder of the day watching the sunset from beside the campfire. I hope that after reading about our trip and my brief life as a husky musher it encourages others to swap their offices for a week finding friluftsliv in Norway.
If you'd like to become a musher this winter, please take a look at our husky sledding trips below or get in touch with the team.