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Finnish Dogsledding Guide

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The Dogs




All our dogs live in the kennels at our Basecamp and are cared for by the dog handlers who live alongside them. They are Alaskan Huskies - a cross between a Siberian husky and different breeds of Nordic or non-Nordic dogs, allowing them to be very much at ease in a Nordic environment. It is bred to withstand temperatures below -40°C thanks to its seven layers of hair. The dogs at the Base camp kennels vary from a few months old to the ripe old age of 16, the older generation enjoying a well-deserved retirement! And just like humans, each dog has its own personality: calm, playful, clever, lively, patient, reckless, cuddly. Our dogs live and work in pairs; often, pairs will grow up, work and live together throughout their lives making them extremely loyal to one another.





The Pack


Lead dog - They dogs are the smartest of the pack. Their role is to give direction and rhythm to all the dogs in the team. Our dog handlers develop particularly strong relationships with these dogs, because they must understand the mushing commands and deliver them.

The Teams - These are the dogs placed behind the lead dog in the pack . They must maintain a good rhythm because they act as a link between all the dogs. 

The Wheels - The wheels are closest to the musher. They are not the fastest, but their strength is essential to help with starting, you might compare them to a prop in rugby. Controlling the sled 


Mushing Technique


On our Finnish Dogsledding Expedition we will be responsible for our sled and a team of 4-6 dogs over the course of the week. Each evening we will tend to the dogs and make sure they are fed, watered and injury free. We will learn basic mushing techniques and how to properly control the sled. The difficulty of the routes will rely solely on the weather conditions; stable, sunny weather can make dogsledding feel pretty easy, however if it is snowing or the visibility drops then it can increase the difficulty quite significantly. To communicate with your furry friends you will be taught a series of commands and steering techniques...these include the following: 

Simple mushing commands: 

  • Hike - Let's go.
  • Gee - Turn right.
  • Haw - Turn left.
  • Easy - Slow down.
  • Whoa - Stop.


Training for dogsledding


Experience

Due to the remote nature of our dogsledding expedition and the limited amount of supplies that we can carry, it is essential that we cover distances in good time. You must therefore be in good physical condition to be able to participate in this trip. Proper control, anticipating scenarios and the ease in which you get on and off your sled will all be taught and steadily developed over the week. This type of experience can only be gained through getting out on a sled, and we don't expect many people to be able to do so beforehand. Therefore, whether you go for an adventure in your local hills or spend a couple of evenings a week doing a predominantly cardiovascular gym routine, the important skills to hone before you join us in Finland are your flexibility and general fitness. These will allow you to move with confidence on the sled, so that when you are doing so in poor weather conditions you can focus on technique rather than strength.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic (or cardio) training will be a key factor in your enjoyment of trekking  through snow in particular. Aerobic literally means 'requiring free oxygen' and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism.

Aerobic exercise, unlike anaerobic exercise, requires oxygen for elongated periods of time. Examples of aerobic exercise would be lane swimming, long distance jogging, walking and cycling. Try to consider the muscles you will be using for dogsledding, for example, your core and arms will be very important for keeping control over the sled, however you will also need to have strong legs to help the dogs pull over tricky ground. Try to include these muscles in your workout; if you aren't lucky enough to be able to get outside to do this, using a cross trainer is a good way of building all your muscles in a gym environment. Building up the time you exercise for, helps these muscles to build stamina whilst also improving your general fitness. 


Strength Training

Any training plan should also include strength training. Although not as important as your aerobic training, strengthening your upper body, core and, in particular, your legs, will greatly increase your chances of success. You'll be on your legs for 5 - 7 hours a day, even whilst standing on the back of the sled they will be working, and you therefore need them to be strong enough to take the punishment.

To strengthen your legs we recommend doing the following exercises:


  • Squats
  • Front and reverse leg curls
  • Lunges
  • Step aerobics

Remember when doing these exercises to keep watch of your technique. Exercises done with poor technique will more often than not harm you instead of help you. Building upper body and core strength is also crucial as you'll not only be on the move for hours, but you'll also be having to keep control over your sled.

We recommend the following exercises to strengthen your upper body and core:


  • Shoulder presses
  • Back and shoulder flyes
  • Sit-ups
  • Kettle-bell rows / swings

Remember to stretch after all exercise sessions! Increasing flexibility will allow your body to recover more quickly overnight after exercising all day. No one wants to try something new after waking up with stiff joints, aching all over!


The importance of stretching

Most sports injuries occur due to poor stretching. This is particularly true in the wilderness where repetitive movements over tough terrain put a lot of stress on joints and muscle. To loosen your muscles and increase suppleness we recommend adopting a regular stretching regime. Spend 10 minutes every morning stretching your main muscle groups. When being active in snowy environments, many people find the key areas prone to injury or stiffness are your hips and knees, building up a good muscular system around these whilst maintaining their flexibility will vastly improve your ability to perform well in the cold temperatures. 



Recommended clothing and equipment


Our advice for keeping warm

Temperatures in Finland can be extremely cold, so please think carefully about what clothes you bring. Although we will provide warm outer layers for your body and feet, the layers you wear next to your skin make the biggest difference. Breathable, warm materials such as Merino wool is perfect for base layers.


We recommend:
  • Long waterproof jacket (with a hood, Gore-Tex/Nikwax or equivalent)
  • Waterproof trousers/salopettes (Gore-Tex/Nikwax or equivalent)
  • At least two pairs of gloves; wool (or similar) under gloves and insulated over gloves
  • Sunglasses (UV 400)
  • Appropriate warm neck wear
  • Warm hat (wool)
  • Warm jacket (synthetic or down)
  • Several sets of warm thermal underwear (long johns & long sleeved tops)
  • Thin socks and 5 or 6 pairs of thick socks

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT

Here's a neat trick. If you're a bit chilly at night, ask if you can fill up your water bottle with hot water then stick it in a sock or t-shirt and pop it in your sleeping bag and you have your very own hot water bottle (literally!) - Note: make sure the lid is fully screwed on.  

Other equipment we provide includes:


  • Dog Sled, harnesses and dogs
  • Group cooking utensils
  • Large warm technical jacket
  • Insulated overalls
  • Suitable technical sleeping bag ( -25°C)
  • Warm snow boots (Sorel)