This winter rather than hibernating at home waiting for spring, I decided to get out and experience it by taking my first Ontario winter road trip. This one road trip to the annual Cannington Dogsled Races and Winter Festival gave me a spectator’s view of dogsled racing in Ontario and started a conversation with fellow travel bloggers Mary (Calculated Traveller), Helen (Not Without My Passport) and Vanessa (Turnipseed Travel) about dogsledding and other winter activities. When four travel bloggers talk about something it is only a matter of time before they turn to their favourite tourism contacts for suggestions.
Before we knew what happened Ontario Highlands Tourism had an entire winter weekend escape planned for us to discover the Haliburton Highlands region of Ontario. The first winter activity on our trip was dogsledding with Winterdance Dogsled Tours. Like many of you I have a list of dream experiences that I would love to do in my lifetime and riding in a dogsled was one of them. However, with Winterdance tours you don’t just ride the dogsled you drive it too!
Winterdance Dogsled Tours, Haliburton
After a three hour drive from Toronto we arrived at our destination: a small trading hut and outhouse? Inside the trading post we met our guide Mike and signed some waivers, while outside the dogs began stirring and whimpering in their beds. As the group gathered to get a 101 lesson on dogsledding from our guide Mike, the dogs excitement kept building.
We learned that these purebred Siberian Husky’s are born to run and if they get loose of their harness or you let go of the sled they will run, far and fast and have the day of their lives on the trails. Immediate note to self: do not let go of the sled and remain on the brake when the sled is stopped. Each sled had a team of five dogs harnessed to the rope and each dog had its own personality and level of experience with dogsledding. Some were champion race dogs, while others were just trained for the tours. The dogs were brought out and we were encouraged to give them lots of love and affection. Our lead dogs were Zeus and Suzie and I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with them before I took the driver’s stance, while Mary trusted my new dogsled driving skills in the passenger seat.
Winterdance Dogsled Tours Meeting the Dogs
At the start of the trails were a series of starts and stops as we familiarized ourselves with the brake and the dogs stopped for a potty break or two. There were a few hills with more starts and stops and then the calm and serene drive through the picturesque trails began. Surrounded by trees, under a clear blue sky and the most vivid sunshine, we rode quietly through the snow.
Eventually we made our way out to a clearing where Mike helped us park the sleds for a short break. We gave the dogs more love, thanking them and encouraging them on a good run. Mike made hot chocolate with marshmallows and offered us a tasty baked treat.
The Winterdance dogs are creatures of routine. As soon as we finished our snack, they started to get excited for their own little doggy snack and for the run home. They jumped with excitement and voiced their eagerness to hit the trails!
On the ride back to the start of the trail, I rode in the passenger seat with our guide Mike, covered in a blanket and taking pictures of this awesome experience. He told me more about our lead dogs and how proud they were of their racing medals. Some of the dogs are professional (and famous) sled racing dogs who participated in races like the Yukon quest.
I can’t imagine riding through the forest on a thousand mile quest with the dogs, but I did get a short two and half hour glimpse into this experience of solitude in the most serene, relaxing and picturesque environment. The perfect way to discover the trails in the Ontario Highlands region and check dogsledding off my dream travel list.
Winterdance Dogsled Tours
Telephone: (705) 457-5281
6577 Haliburton Lake Road
Haliburton, Ontario K0M 1S0 Canada
Tour Options Available:
- Two Hour Tour
- Half Day Tour
- Full Day Tour
- Moonlit Run
- Multi-Day Tour