Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of questions that we hear all the time. A special thanks to Maureen O'Neill of Illinois who went on our trip in December of 2003 and finally got me to upload this page.
- How did you become interested in sled dogs?
- How did you get experience as a musher?
- How did you start your business?
- How many dogs and mushers do you have?
- How do you get your dogs?
- What is your sledding season?
- What kind of dogs do you have?
- Have any of your dogs raced?
- When the dogs are going crazy before the ride, are they saying "Pick me! Pick me!"
- What and how much do your dogs eat?
- Do the sleds follow each other down the trail?
- Can I consume marijuana during the ride?
- I scheduled a sled ride, but what if there is not enough snow?
- How many trails do you have?
- Do you have any puppies?
- What are the age restrictions for the ride?
- How long are the rides?
- Do you ever cancel for weather?
- Is there a weight limit?
1. How did you become interested in sled dogs?
While on vacation in Aspen in December of 1995, I met a musher named Harry Portland in a bar in Snowmass Village. I was there with my best friend from college (Brian Donning) and we played a couple games of pool with Harry. We asked him what he did for a living, and I was fascinated with his story of driving dog sleds for Krabloonik Kennels. It sounded like so much fun. Harry's words stuck in my head for several weeks. Finally I made the descision to go for it and try the life of a musher. It wasn't until June of 1996 that I resigned from my job as a computer software programmer for Compuware in Michigan and started my journey west to Colorado.2. How did you get experience as a musher?
After an interview and tryout process at Krabloonik, I was lucky enough to be one of five new drivers hired for the 1996-1997 season. That Novemeber we had very good snow which allowed us to drive sleds early and gain lots of valuable experience on the sled. After many trips with experienced mushers helping me out, I was finally ready to drive a sled with paying guests by myself on December 27, 1996. I have driven tens of thousands of miles since and met people from all over the world.3. How did you start your business?
I did not actually start Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park, I bought it. After working two years full time and two years part time for Krabloonik, I was looking to start my own dog sledding business. Tracie and I were thinking of moving to Idaho or Montana, because the price of land and other materials are cheaper there. Through my work on the website dogsledrides.com I came to find out that Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park was for sale. After a short visit to the Fraser Valley and reviewing all the facts and figures, we decided this was our best option. We signed the final purchase contract on December 21, 2000.4. How many dogs and mushers do you have?
The number of dogs and mushers changes throughout the year. We try to maintain about 70 dogs in the kennel who can actually pull for us during the season. Some of the older dogs can only pull a little, and the puppies don't pull guests until they are 18 months old. As for mushers, we try to have the ability to run 5 sleds at a time, which requires at least 5 drivers on staff and usually we have 6.5. How do you get your dogs?
Most of our dogs come from other kennels or homes. When racing kennels have a dog that does not fit into their program anymore, they look for another home for the dog. Sometimes that is another racing kennel, a pet home or a touring kennel like ours. Also, when somebody adopts a husky for a pet, they don't always understand what it takes to care for them. We will occasional take huskies that are too much to handle for their original families. Finally, we do have a litter of puppies every once in a while. If we have two dogs that we think will make great puppies and we have openings in the kennel, we will breed the two in the hopes that they will make more great sleddogs.6. What is your sledding season?
We are open all the time for rides. We use the vehicle that best suits the trail conditions on any given day. We typically switch to sleds around Thanksgiving and we typically switch back to wheeled carts just after Easter. If you schedule a sled and the trail can not support a sled, because of poor snow conditions we will use a cart. The same goes for a scheduled cart where there is too much snow and we must use a sled.7. What kind of dogs do you have?
We have Siberian huskies and Alaskan huskies. Our Siberians are registered with the American Kennel Club, but don't always fit within their standard. We prefer dogs that are narrower, taller and less "fluffy" than what the AKC calls for. Alaskan huskies are a mixed breed without a standard. Mushers mix different kinds of huskies and many other kinds of breeds including greyhounds and pointers to get the different features of the breeds to come out in the new puppies. With a short gestation and short time to breeding age, it does not take long to develop a whole new line of huskies.8. Have any of your dogs raced?
Yes. One of our dogs has raced the Iditarod, a few have raced in the Yukon Quest, one was on the 4 and 6 dog sprint world championship team, 12 have raced in the Race to the Sky, and several others have competed in smal races in the lower 48 states.9. When the dogs are going crazy before the ride, are they saying "Pick me! Pick me!"
Yes. The dogs get very excited to go out for a walk, and they express that by making a lot of noise. This sometimes scares people, because the dogs can look like they are mad. They are just excited though and quickly quiet down once we are moving.10. What and how much do your dogs eat?
Our dogs eat dog food. We choose a high fat, high protein dog food that is very calorie dense. We change brands every once in a while and for the 2009-2010 season we have chosen Eagle Pack Power Formula. As for how much, that changes throughout the year based on how cold it is and how much they are running. In summer when it is hot and we are not running any carts, the average dog may be around 2 cups per day (900 calories). In winter when it is cold and we are very busy, the average dog gets about 5 cups (2,300 calories).11. Do the sleds follow each other down the trail?
All the sleds scheduled for the same time leave within a minute or two of each other. Each sled guide pays attention to the position of the other sleds, and we occasionally will be near each other, but not side by side. After a mile or so, the sleds have the ability to split up and take different trails, but sometimes they take the same route.12. Can I consume marijuana during the ride?
The simple answer is NO. You may not smoke anything during the trip. You may smoke regular tobacco cigarettes in the parking area. You may consume edible marijuana during the trip, only when not in view of any other sleds. We recommend consuming your recreational marijuana before arriving at our trailhead, but not so much that you will forget to show up.13. I scheduled a sled ride, but what if there is not enough snow?
We are open all the time for rides. We use the vehicle that best suits the trail conditions on any given day. We typically switch to sleds around Thanksgiving and we typically switch back to wheeled carts just after Easter. If you schedule a sled and the trail can not support a sled, because of poor snow conditions we will use a cart. The same goes for a scheduled cart where there is too much snow and we must use a sled.
Please note there are different prices for sleds and carts, and that the weight limits are different.14. How many trails do you have?
Our trail system is a living thing, and we add and remove trails every year. To see all of our trails mapped on Google maps, visit our trail page. In general we have about 8.5 miles of trail, and use about five miles per trip. If you want to see the patterns we make using our trails, visit our trip page. The trails that we have every year are:
- First Field
- Miracle Mile
- Devil's Dilemma
- Fence Line
- Northern Exposure
- Dark Side
- Dead Horse
- Alaska Highway
15. Do you have any puppies?
Probably, but our definition of puppy is quite liberal. We call our dogs puppies until they are three years old. Since we have puppies born here about once every eighteen months, we usually have ten to fifteen "puppies". If you want to see the age breakdown of the kennel, visit this page.16. What are the age restrictions for the ride?
The ride is a sedentary activity that people of all ages can enjoy. The ride is also completely outside and the guests will experience the weather as it happens and the trail conditions as they exist. In most circumstances, the ride is suitable for people between the ages of one and eighty. In perfect conditions the ride is suitable for people between six months and one hundred. In poor conditions the ride is barely suitable for our professional guides and dogs.17. How long are the rides?
The winter sled rides are 45 minutes long. In that time we cover a variable amount of distance depending on the conditions. Most trips are about five miles with the range being from three to seven miles.
The cart rides travel a set distance (most of the time) that varies from year to year. The cart pattern is usually around 4.8 miles. The length of time varies a bit from trip to trip with most trips lasting about forty minutes. Morning trips are a bit faster, because the dogs prefer the cooler temperatures. Evening trips are a little longer, because we stop for water twice.18. Do you ever cancel for weather?
Yes, but not really. From 2001 through 2015 we have closed in the winter because of too much snow for three days (all from one storm in 2003) and we have closed for too much wind for half of a day. Basically, we go in any winter weather you can imagine. The coldest we have ever started a ride is probably near -30° F. We go in heavy snow, wet snow, blowing snow etc. In summer when we are doing cart rides, we do cancel the evening trips often because of rain or too much heat. Riding in a cart during the rain with lightning is very unpleasant and a bit scary. Also, if the temperatures are not cool enough, the dogs may overheat.19. Is there a weight limit?
Yes. The weight limit can vary based on the conditions, but most of the time it is 350 pounds for a sled, and 450 pounds for a cart. We weigh each guest when they check-in and add up the weights of each guest in a particular sled and compare that to the weight limit. If the combined weight of the guests in a sled is over the weight limit, we will either: continue as normal if the conditions are safe enough; leave someone behind; rearrange guests within a group to get under the weight limit.