Dog sledding in Quebec City
Quebec City is known for the UNESCO listed World heritage Site of Vieux Quebec (fortified old city), the 19th century Chateau Frontenac and the famous ski hills of Mont Sainte Anne but its also a great spot for outdoor activities. Quebec City is a fantastic city to visit in both the summer and winter months. The summertime months are filled with street side cafes serving sumptuous Quebecois inspired delicacies, Quebec’s Jazz Festival and Transat Quebec St-Malo, a high level international boating competition, held every four years, featuring the best professional monohull and multihull sailboat crews. The winter time is equally as exciting featuring winter festivities from the imaginative Carnival festival that showcases snow sculpture competitions, snow tubing and the famous Bonhomme mascot to the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition where skaters race through hairpin turns, huge jumps and super steep slopes that trace the streets of old Quebec.
However, on this trip particular trip to Quebec City, I decided that I wanted to try something seemingly foreign but entirely Canadian- the sport of dog sledding. I had always wanted to try the activity but living in Toronto there isn’t enough snow to accommodate dogsleds and not much in the way of dogsled trails. The history of dog sledding goes back over 4000 years when Thule Inuit brought the first Inuit dogs to the North. The dog sleds were utilized as a means of transportation for hunting, fishing, trading and as communities grew, to deliver supplies. Even the famed Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used dogsleds to in the 19th century to patrol the Northern Canadian wilderness. Dog sledding is now considered an international sport that gains popularity annually.
We decided to go for an early morning dogsled hoping thats when the dogs would have the most energy. When we arrived at the chalet we were greeted by our professional guides who provided us with some extra snow protection (heavy duty snow boats and snow pants) to shield us from the winter elements. We were then briefed on dog sledding – never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that dog sledding could be so complex. To start off, since we were in Quebec our dogs only spoke French so we needed to learn the words for “GO”, ‘Slow Down” and “Stop”. Each of these commands had to be followed by the head dog’s name. For instance our dog’s name was Lou, so when we wanted our team to move we had to say “Allez Lou!” but not too loudly, otherwise the dogs would get too excited. In addition to the commands there were numerous instructions regarding the care and control of the sled. For instance, how to veer right/left, how to get the dogs moving despite calling out commands, breaking and what to do if you lose control of the dogsled. Other instructions included: respecting the hierarchy of the dogs as the nature of the sport is very competitive and the dogs can be very aggressive amongst each other and the other dog sled teams. We were also instructed never to pass a dogsled and if we wanted to play with the dogs we had to pet them from the beginning of the pack to the back in order to respect the hierarchy.
As soon as we approached the dogs we were greeted by countless howls emanating from every dog sled team. They were so excited that we weren’t allowed to take photos of them for fear of provoking them even further. Once we started riding the dogsled, we were encased by a winter wonderland by the foothills of Mont Sainte Anne. All we could hear were the surrounding sled rider’s muffled commands and intermittent Nordic barks.
These beautiful Nordic dogs came in white, grey and black, some even sported piercing blue eyes. They were friendly and loved the affection of the human touch. The only downside to dog sledding was the dog’s constant peeing. Nordic dogs love marking their territory on trees with urine. However, for both a dogsled passenger/musher (driver) it can be mildly terrifying when 3-6 dogs try to pee all over a tree while at the same time while swerving the dogsled straight for bark. Despite all the peeing, dog sledding is a fantastic way to embrace the serenity of nature while trying out a famous Canadian sport.
There are numerous companies offering dog sledding packages in the area of Mont Sainte Anne Quebec. We went with Secrets Nordique which was the most affordable option, offering a 1.5 hour ride through a wooded trail with our own dogsled. They had reasonable student prices ($77) and their adult packages started from $96 (daily departures 9:00, 11:30 and 2:00).
Getting there: Dog sledding in Quebec
Unless you have a car, getting to the base of Mount Saint Anne is pretty pricey as it takes at least half an hour to reach the mountain. You can either grab a cab or hitch a ride on the Mount Saint Anne shuttle which offers a few scheduled departures daily (return trip $28).
Dog sledding is an exhilarating activity that is suitable for pretty much all age groups – Allez!