Five hours’ drive north from the US-Canadian border lies a city called Kelowna, BC. Tucked into the Monashee mountain range nearby, you’ll find Big White Ski Resort, home to some of the most family-friendly skiing, snowboarding, and outdoor winter activities my family and I have ever experienced. At the top of our Big White activity list: the Dog Sled Tour experience, run by musher and tour company owner Tim Tedford. I arrived for my Big White dog sledding experience with my mom, a long-time follower of the Iditerod and dog-lover. From the minute we met Tim’s kennel full of happy, wagging, enthusiastic sled dogs, we knew we were in for an unique experience dog sledding in Canada.
These were not the large, mostly-wild Siberian huskies we had envisioned. In fact, most of Tim’s team are of mixed breed, rarely aggressive, and small in stature. This does not mean they aren’t equipped for the job: in fact, many of his team, including the lead dog during our tour, are past Iditerod athletes. While selecting and harnessing his team, Tim described sled dog culture to us, the science behind team selection, and the distinctive kinesiology behind what makes a great sled dog. Some dog sledding ventures will simply put you on a sled and take your money, but as soon as we started talking to Tim, it was obvious that he cares as much about educating guests as he does about ensuring you have a great ride.
After teaching us what the dogs eat (let’s just say they probably eat better than you and me), where they sleep (in cozy crates nested with straw), and whether they get along with one another (better than my kids), Tim finished preparing the team (and us) for departure. My mom and I learned how to load and unload the sled as the previously calm and quiet kennel area erupted with excited barking. “No matter if they just ran, they want to run again,” Tim explained.
Their unbridled joy was contagious: when we finally took off, Tim on the runners and my mom and me in the sled, I was grinning ear-to-ear. The first thing I noticed was how fast we were going. The second: how silent the previously barking dogs had become. We could hear a pin drop (or more accurately, only our own shrieks of joy) as we sailed over the packed snow. The sight of the graceful, united dogs combined with the beautiful Monashee mountain scenery would have brought tears to my eyes had I not been wearing ski goggles.
Halfway through our 5K (3.2 mile) run, Tim slowed the team and stopped them, offering me a turn at the back of the sled. He warned me that ‘there’s nothing quite like being on the runners’ and he was right. I could truly feel their power as they pulled.
Before we knew it, we were arriving back at the kennel, where we praised the dogs one by one (a ritual at Big White) and Tim rewarded the eight dogs with a tasty frozen meat snack. We appreciated how clearly Tim loved his animals, and we came away from the experience with a greater respect for this species, this sport, and the humane people who give it the heart it has.
What you need to know before booking
Each sled has a weight limit (rather than a person limit) of 340 pounds. Up to two sleds can depart together most days.
The dog sled experience can be booked nearly any day during the ski season, and reservations can be made ahead of time at the Village Centre Mall Activities Desk and through Central Reservations. Cost is $195 CAN per sled. Kids as young as age 3 are welcome, but if some family members would rather not ride, they could come (supervised) with you to visit with the dogs before departure. Wear ski gear (snow pants, warm gloves, jacket, and googles). A hat or helmet is also recommended, and you’ll need snow boots.
Have you been dog sledding? What was your experience like?
As I disclose whenever applicable, we were hosted for our dog sledding experience, for the purpose of review.