Sunday 8 March 2009

Tailing Back On The Husky Trails in Finnish Lapland

What better way to explore the winter wilderness of Lapland than sitting in a sled led by a husky team of dogs? Once the only means of arctic transportation, sled riding has become a popular tourist activity in the Finnish north with more than 100 farms providing sledding rides.

Dog sledding business has grown in the past few years with a great pace as the tourism to Lapland has expanded. Rides are now organized by over 100 dog farms mainly in the Finnish Lapland. In 2008 an association was established to represent the entrepreneurs – both the sled riders as well as the sledding dogs.

"The dogs are working animals and need to be taken into consideration as such when it is decided, for example, what kinds of municipal veterinary services are provided. That's one of the reasons we started the association. --- and hard workers like our dogs deserve representation," explains Juha Laine, the chairman of the sledding entrepreneurs and the owner of SnowRiders safaris in Levi.

The dogs' liking for their work and the social aspect of it becomes obvious when arriving to a sled dog farm: visitors are eagerly welcomed by great howling and wagging of the tail.

"The wolf like appearance combined with the howling can create a wrong image for people since the dogs are very friendly," states Juha Laine.

The age-old snowmobile

Typical sled dogs in Finland are Alaskan and Siberian huskies. Huskies are arctic breeds that descend from sled dogs dating back for more than 4000 years. Sled dogs were once the main method of transportation in the Arctic regions, long before snowmobiles were invented. Researchers have claimed that life in these regions would not have even been possible without the dogs.

These days huskies are mainly used in dog races and in tourism. In the races the fastest dogs can reach the speed of up to 50 km per hour. However on the tourist excursions speed is not the point, especially if one takes up the challenge and mushes one's own team of 4-8 dogs. For those looking for a more effortless ride, a seat in the guide's sled is offered. Rides vary from 60 minute excursions to 5-day safaris. During the longer expeditions one will have the opportunity to lodge at wilderness cabins and prepare meals on an open fire.

The dog sledding period lasts from November to mid-April. During that time the temperature in the northern Finland drops well below minus degrees but properly dressed and tucked under warm blankets the cold doesn't get to you. And when travelling across snowy forests and frozen lakes hearing nothing but the panting of the dogs and the creak of the snow under the runner, the excitement will keep your mind away from the cold. A sight of a reindeer, an elk or arctic birds are not uncommon and if one is sledding during the late winter with good luck one might even get to see the Northern Lights.

After the busy winter season, the arctic dogs spend the summer on a well-deserved holiday - sunbathing on the roofs of their dog-houses.

For more information about huskies and husky safaris:

SnowRiders Safaris
Husky Karde Safaris
Ranua Wildlife Safaris
Ruka Safaris
Harriniva Holiday Centre
Holiday Village Himmerki
Basecamp Oulanka
The Lapland Connection

For more information on Finland visit

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