Mushing in Montana

Oh, what fun it is to ride in a nine-dog, open sleigh.

Like many of Montana’s mountain activities, the sport of mushing evolved from a practical necessity. Before the existence of modern mechanized travel, teams of sled dogs were the most efficient way for Native Americans to pull loads of food and supplies to isolated communities during winter months. During the late 1800s, the practice of using dog sleds to haul crucial supplies through frozen terrain was adopted by America’s European settlers, too, and the use of sled dogs to transport everything from mail to medicine became common winter-time practice in the northern US, Canada and Alaska. In the early-to mid 1900s, the advent of the airplane—and later the snowmobile—rendered the widespread use of sled dog teams less efficient than it once was.

A common misconception of mushing is that since the dogs are harnessed, they are being unwillingly subjected to work. However, the fact of the matter is that the dogs used in the activity (typically Huskies, Malamutes or a mix of the two) have mushing in their DNA and they love pulling a sled much in the same way a golden retriever loves to play fetch.

Montana’s cool temperatures are ideal for mushing because, in addition to keeping the dogs from overheating, our climate is also known for producing an ample, consistent snow pack. These factors, when combined with participation from our visitors, has kept this otherwise-lost tradition alive in Big Sky. Having offered sled dog instruction and experiences to Big Sky’s visitors since 1994, Spirit of the North Sled Dog Adventures is as genuine of a sled dog operation as one can find anywhere. The experienced staff lives and breathes mushing, and is comfortable working with every age and ability that is curious about the world of sled dogs.

Spirit of the North’s Sled Dog Adventures operates on land adjacent to Moonlight Basin, just a mile up the road from Big Sky’s Mountain Village (Big Sky Resort’s Concierge is happy to provide resort hotel guests with complimentary transportation to and from Spirit of the North). Here, just a stone’s throw from the ski area, miles of trails weave through dense tracts of lodgepole forest, eventually giving way to stunning views of massive alpine peaks, the sprawling Madison Valley and, occasionally, the wildlife that inhabits the rarely-accessed Jack Creek Preserve.

With Spirit of the North, every participant has the opportunity to take a turn on the reigns; actually leading the team of sled dogs through this awe-inspiring terrain. For those who would rather leave the navigation aspect of the trip to an expert musher, just riding along is an option, too, but know that zooming through the woods at ground level behind a team of enthusiastic sled dogs is still more of an adventure than it is a tranquil way to go sight seeing. Don’t worry, though, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy tranquility during the mid-trip hot cocoa and snack break.

Spirit of the North’s Sled Dog Adventures run twice a day, starting at 9:30am or 1pm, making it an ideal “down day” activity for the adventurous or a vacation highlight for the whole family. Reservations are required and slots at Spirit of the North fill up fast during holiday periods, so, mush!

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By | 2018-12-12T17:11:00+00:00 December 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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