Thursday morning was finally the day of our dog sledding adventure. Being from Florida I never thought I would get the opportunity to travel to Norway much less learn to drive my own team of huskies! This was our first day of experiencing life in the great outdoors and so far we loved it! We arrived at Rica Ishvahotel just before 10:00am and piled into our small charter van to take us to Kvaløya, Whale Island, which is where Arctic Adventure tours calls home. The beauty of this island is unsurpassed and presented us with beautiful snow covered mountains and iced-over fjords. Owned and operated by Per-Thore and Hege Hansen, Arctic Adventure tours has expanded their company since opening in 1999. According to their website, “Arctic Adventure Tours boast some of the best guides in the field, providing you with experienced, respected and safe expedition leaders,” and it’s unmistakably clear that the guides really love what they do as they show each one of the 90 or so Alaskan Huskies that call this place home lots of affection.After we arrived we were invited to meet some of the staff and headed inside to get properly suited up. After getting kitted out in special winter gear and sorel boots we felt ready to go and excitedly headed out back to the husky yard to meet some of the Huskies. Within moments we were greeted by some of the sweetest pups who were all vying for pets and attention! As an avid animal lover I am pleased that Arctic Adventure Tours enthusiastically encourages their adventurers to interact with the dogs and we definitely did just that! After receiving lots of licks from the pups ourselves, we were given a quick lesson on how to properly steer the sled with perhaps the most important advise: Rule #1–“never let go!” Well, at least try to never let go! Then, as if on queue, every Husky began barking at once in pure excitement anticipating the run. Once we reached the top of the hill we could see all of the sleds lined up with 5 dogs already harnessed and ready to go! They were jumping around and bounding over each other happily knowing that we were about to start! We were directed to our sled and had a few moments to meet and interact with our team! Jamin started out as the driver and I comfortably positioned myself in the reindeer lined sled ready to start snapping some shots. Finally we were off! A few other dog sled teams took off before us and then we were instructed to head out. As Jamin began to release on the brake, we lurched forward as our five pups were already beginning to fly through the snow with ease. Although smaller than I expected the dogs are mighty strong and didn’t have any trouble pulling the sled with two people. We headed out across the winter wonderland and I took in the breathtaking views as cool bursts of mountain air nipped at my face. Daylight peaked through the breaks in the mountain encompassing the clear sky with shades of pink and orange. Clean white covered landscapes and the sound of husky paws crunching in the snow made the experience seem more idyllic and surreal. We drove through trees and open terrain which exposed the untouched beauty of Kvaløya. The dogs run a course of about 15 km to 17 km with short stops along the way which allowed us to change drivers, let the dogs roll around in the snow and rest their legs. When it was my turn to drive I nervously and excitedly positioned one foot on one of the two sled bars while the other remained on the brake. (Rule #2: when changing drivers always have at least one foot on the brake!) When it’s time to go, I slowly lifted my foot off the brake and the dogs lurched forward, again gliding effortlessly through the snow.
Back at the husky farm, we took many photos with our team of pups who seemed proud of their hard work!Within a few moments it was quiet on the farm and the dogs were taken out of their harness’s and were settled back in their individual homes to receive their afternoon snack. We found warmth in a Traditional Sami hut where we were offered tea, coffee and Hege’s delicious homemade chocolate cake. As an added bonus they brought out four 11 day old puppies for us to cuddle.
To find out more information about the dog sledding adventure and other tours they offer visit the Arctic Adventure Tours website. This tour cost 1550 NOK per adult and 775 NOK for children. The trip lasts about 4 hrs and starts at numerous times during the day. The evening dog sledding trip allows for the chance to spot the Northern Lights in the clear, dark sky that surrounds the island of Kvaløya. The price includes pick-up and drop-off, extra warm clothes, coffee/tea and delicious homemade chocolate cake!