Adventure travel company accused of killing 100 sled dogs

Yesterday a disturbing story made its way out of British Columbia, Canada, where an adventure travel company has been accused of killing more than 100 sled dogs last April after suffering a poor travel season. The incident first came to light when a former employee with the company made a claim for workman’s compensation based on his suffering Post Traumatic Stress after he was ordered to kill 70 dogs. That number was later raised to 100 by the company in question.

According to this story, adventure travel company Outdoor Adventures Whistler is under investigation for animal cruelty following the alleged event, which took place around April 21-23 of last year. The report says that the dogs were shot to death then tossed into a mass grave, the site of which is now being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Reports seem to indicate that the travel company suffered a poor season last winter with very few travelers electing to take their tours. As a result, they fell on hard times economically, which forced them to make the decision to kill their sled dog teams rather than finding alternate solutions.

Animal lovers should use caution when reading the full story on this incident. Some of the descriptions of what happened is a bit disturbing to say the least. This report underscores a bit of a dark side to some kinds of travel, where animals can be seen as a commodity used for profit, then discarded when they are no longer useful. Obviously not all adventure travel companies, or even dog sled tours, operate like this, but it helps to underscore the need for researching who we choose to travel with.

This is a sad story and if the allegations are found to be true, I hope those involved are held responsible for their actions.

[Photo credit: Zeledi via WikiMedia]

Dogsledding in Norway

Just because cold weather sets in doesn’t mean we have to put an end to our outdoor adventures. There are plenty of great things to do in the snow, like skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, and for the truly adventurous, dogsledding. That is the focus of this article from the Times Online, who sent travel writer Stanley Stewart on a three day dogsledding expedition through the wilds of Norway led by Steppes Travel, a company that specializes in adventure travel.

The trip took place on the remote Svalbard islands, which sit nearly a thousand miles north of the Norwegian mainland, where Stewart, who seems an unlikely adventure traveler, is forced to endure inclement weather that includes high winds, blizzard conditions, and temperatures that dropped to -25º C (-13º F). The islands are perpetually covered in snow and ice, and that makes them a perfect winter playground, even in the height of summer.
Early on in the journey, the author learns to drive the sled, keeping the dogs under control, and before long, he is able to relax a bit, and take in the stark beauty of the arctic environment. Throughout the day, the team is pressing to reach their destination, a ship that is trapped in the ice, which serves as their hotel for the evening. The travelers have a sense of urgency instilled in them when the guides threaten to make them camp in tents if they don’t arrive at the much warmer boat before night fall.

If you’ve ever dreamed of sledding along through the arctic, than you are sure to enjoy this article. It gives an excellent first hand account of what this kind of adventure is all about. You’ll either come away more determined than ever to go play in the cold, or you’ll be convinced once and for all that a vacation in the arctic just isn’t a very good idea.

Lance Mackey Wins 2009 Iditarod

Two time defending champ Lance Mackey claimed his third straight Iditarod crown yesterday, arriving in Nome less than ten days after setting out on the trail from Anchorage. He was followed in the evening hours by Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker, who finished second and third respectively.

The Iditarod is known as “The Last Great Race” and is Alaska’s premiere sporting event and has been held annually since 1973. The race commorates the rich dog sledding tradition of the the 49th state, while following a historically significant trail that was once used to run mail and supplies throughtout the region. Back in 1925, when a diptheria epidemic hit Nome, the trail was famously used to deliver medical supplies, with a chain of heroic mushers passing the serum along like a baton in a relay race. Fortunately, the serum arrived on time, and the events caught the attention of the entire nation.

The course that is used in the Iditarod race today stretches 1150 miles in length through some of Alaska’s most remote and demanding terrain. The mushers in this year’s race dealt with brutal weather conditions as well, with temperatures dropping into the -50º F with windchills, and howling breezes creating whiteout conditions on the trail. Some were forced to seek shelter wherever they could to wait out the worst of the weather.

There are still a number of mushers out on the course, and they’ll continue to cross the finish line over the next day or two. These men and women are celeberties in Alaska, and they’ll each be met with cheering crowds when the reach the finish. The last competitor to reach Nome also receives a red lantern sympolizing the old kerosene lanterns that were used to light the way for mushers in years gone by.

Five Sled Dog Adventures

With the holidays come and gone, and winter now fully set in, many of us start counting the days until spring is here and the warm weather returns. But winter can provide great opportunities for outdoor adventure, giving you plenty of reasons to bundle up and head out for some fun.

Take this story for example from It lists five of the best sled dog adventures that allow even inexperienced mushers to get out and have some fun. The trips vary in length from just a couple of hours all the way up to multiple days with prices scaling to match. Those looking to just go for a winter ride on sled can get by with a short, two hour trip that can cost less than $100, while the more adventurous can spend as much as $10,000 on a two-week expedition through the remote Yukon Territory with the Uncommon Journeys guide service.

Most of the guides mentioned in the CNN article are located in Alaska and Canada, but you’ll find others in the continental United States as well. Mahoosuc Guide Service in Maine is the example of this from the story, but there are others in Minnesota, Montana, Washington, and so on.

Traveling by sled dog can be a unique and rewarding way to see some of the most remote and pristine areas on the planet. So put on your warm clothes, bring some hot cocoa, and enjoy the ride.