Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park

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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.

Questions about Reservations and making Reservations

How much snow does it take to switch from carts to sleds?
Depends. If the ground is cold, and the snow comes straight down without wind, and it stays cold after it snows, then we can put in a basic trail with about six inches of snowfall. If it is windy, or the ground is warm, or the temperature fluctuates around freezing, then it could take several feet of snowfall to put in a basic trail.
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. If you do not want to ride in the other type of vehicle, we give you the option to cancel without penalty as soon as we make the decision to switch vehicles. Please note there are different prices for sleds and carts, and that the weight limits are different.
Do you ever cancel for weather?
Yes, but not really. From 2001 through 2017 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.
Can I purchase a gift certificate?
Yes, visit our gift certificates page.
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.
At what temperature do the cart rides operate?
For evening cart rides the scheduled starting temperature needs to be 63 degrees or less. The scheduled ending temperature needs to be 60 degrees or less. For morning cart rides, the scheduled ending temperature needs to be 60 degrees or less. If the temperatures for your cart ride are warmer than allowable, we will not be able to go out, and you can either reschedule for a cooler time, or receive a refund of your deposit.
Why is the weight of my sled different than what I entered?
We use a machine learning algorithm to estimate the weight of the guests based on the weight entered by the guest and the area code. This gives us a more realistic picture of what kind of weights we need to prepare for. This calculation happens for each sled reserved. Once you arrive for your ride, we use a scale to get the final weight of the guests.
If I am under the weight limit, will I be matched up with another person?
No, we do not combine strangers from different reservations into the same sled or cart. The only people in your sled will be those you add to your reservation and assign to seats within the sled. Since this is not a service that we offer, even if you want to be matched up with a stranger, we do not have the ability to keep track of and match up those requests.

General questions about our business

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 decision 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 software engineer for Compuware in Michigan and started my journey west to Colorado.
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 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.
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 November 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.

Questions about the Dogs

Can we pet all of the dogs?
When you come for a ride, you can certainly pet all the dogs who just pulled sleds after the ride. During the kennel tour you get to pet the dogs in the exercise yard. We cannot allow guests to walk through the dog yard or staging area petting dogs.
How do the dogs stay warm in the winter?
Our dogs were built to stay warm in harsh winter conditions. Most people have a hard time understanding that, because humans are not designed to withstand the same conditions. Rest assured that our dogs are just fine in the winter because:
  1. They are double coated. A dense, woolly undercoat provides insulation and a layer of longer, coarser guard hairs protects against wind and moisture.
  2. They have built-in earmuffs. A fine, dense growth of hair at the opening of the ear canal protects the sensitive inner portions of the ear.
  3. Their long, fluffy tail covers their nose when curled up which helps circulate exhaled breath in their thick coat.
  4. They have densely furred feet with thicker pads that have a structure similar to leather.
Do you really have a dog with my name?
Maybe. When we send emails, we include all the names of the dogs we currently have in the email signature. Our IT guy has a bit of a sense of humor, so he also inserts the names of all the riders on your reservation into the signature with all the dog names. If there is a duplicate, the name is only inserted once. To find out if we really have a dog with your name, add your name to this url:
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.
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.
Have any of your dogs raced?
Yes. Over the years we have acquired dogs from racing kennels who have had a racing career before coming here. We have had dogs who raced in the Iditarod, Yukon Quest, Race to the Sky, John Beargrease, Wyoming Stage Stop, Open North American, and several other smaller races in the lower 48 states. We do not actively race (we have run Race to the Sky), so once here, our dogs do not race anymore.
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.
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 2016-2017 season we have chosen RedPaw PowerEdge 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 1,000 calories. In winter when it is cold and we are very busy, the average dog gets about 3,000 calories.
How do you get your dogs?
About 2/3 of our dogs are born here. The others come from racing kennels, shelters or pet homes.
When racing kennels have a dog that does not fit into their program anymore, that dog still has plenty ability left to fit in just fine here.
Also, when somebody adopts a husky for a pet, they don't always understand what it takes to care for them. That husky will often end up in an animal shelter. Sometimes they will contact us directly and we will adopt the husky from them before it ends up in a shelter.
How many dogs and mushers do you have?
The number of dogs and mushers changes throughout the year. We try to maintain about 80 dogs in the dog yard which means about 70 are capable of pulling sleds. Some of the older dogs can only pull a little, and the puppies don't pull guests until they are about 12 months old. As for mushers, we try to have the ability to run three sleds at a time, which requires at least three drivers on staff and usually we have four.

Questions about the Rides and what happens during a Ride

How fast do the sleds go?
We try to keep the dogs at a comfortable pace for the whole team. This is usually a trotting pace that measures between seven and ten miles per hour. On occasion we get the dogs up near twenty miles per hour for a short burst and we are occasionally going zero miles per hour at rest breaks and picture stops.
How many dogs pull a sled?
When we are using sleds, the trail conditions vary wildly from month to month and even within a single day. Because of that, the number of dogs we use also varies greatly. Most sleds will use eight or nine dogs, but we have used as little as five and as many as fourteen. When we are using carts, the trail conditions are much more consistent. Almost all carts use twelve dogs in the summer, but we will use fourteen in the fall when we are trying to exercise the dogs more regularly.
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.
Is it OK to go for a ride when I'm pregnant?
For legal reasons, no. If you ask your doctor they will say no as well (for the same reason.) Having said that, we have taken many pregnant humans at all stages of pregnancy (0 to 35 weeks) for rides without issue. The sled ride is mostly quite smooth, and if you tell us ahead of time, we can make it a bit smoother by slowing down on the bumps. Speaking of bumps, the cart ride is quite bumpy on occasion, so we do not recommend pregnant people take a cart ride if bumping is bad for pregnancies.
What is the difference between a dog cart ride and a dog sled ride?
Most people would prefer to ride in a sled, but sometimes of year that is just not possible. Cart rides are a great alternative. View our comparison page to see the differences.
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
  • Crescent
  • Slingshot
  • Northern Exposure
  • Overlook
  • Dark Side
  • Dead Horse
  • Alaska Highway
  • Dawson
  • Infield
  • Concessions
  • Merlinor
  • Equalizer
Can I bring my dog with me?
No. We do not allow outside dogs on our property. If you are traveling with your dog in your car, you must leave them in the car. We prefer the windows are up so your dog's barking does not make our dogs bark, which means definitely do not bring your dog here in the summer.
Can children ride by themselves?
Usually. To ride without adults the children need to be able to understand the musher and follow their simple instructions. They need to be able to stay in the sled and sit still. As a single rider we recommend being at least ten years old. If riding with an older sibling we recommend being at least four.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Call (970) 387-8326 or click here to schedule the experience of a lifetime.