Who needs snow when you have scooters?
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE – Some activities are definitely dependent on the season – or at least the elements that come with the season. You can’t ice skate without ice, and alpine skiing’s pretty tough without snow.
And the common assumption would be that dogsledding is the same way.
Of course, assuming isn’t always the best idea.
“It’s something we struggle with trying to explain to people,” said Orion Paiement, owner of Snow Caps Sled Dogs in Breckenridge. “It’s hard to really describe what it is in the summer.”
Well, what “it is” isn’t exactly what Jack London wrote about in The Call of the Wild, and it certainly isn’t something most people are accustomed to seeing.
None the less, Paiement and his crew at the sled dog facility, located at the end of Tiger Road, had to come up with a way to keep their 130 dogs active during the summer months.
Since a dogsled – which cruises effortlessly through snow – doesn’t run so smoothly on rocky, dirt trails, Paiement swapped out the cumbersome sled for a scooter. These two-wheeled, suped-up rides are comparable to the scooters many ski resorts rent out to summer guests, but at Snow Caps, riders aren’t looking for a downhill rush. Instead, you latch on a couple huskies and mush.
“It’s actually pretty amazing how well these scooters move through here,” Paiement told me Friday morning as I stood atop one of the scooters for the first time. “With the wheels, you don’t need a full team of dogs to get it moving. Two dogs do more than enough pulling.”
That was something I learned a little later.
Backing up a bit – The scooter is actually one of three options Snow Caps gives guests during the summer, the first being a paid tour of the facilities in which you’d see the whole lot of dogs including the newest litters of pups.
The other “moving” option is a golf cart pulled by an eight-dog team. The cart, Paiement said, is much more suited for families with young children or for people a little nervous about balancing on the scooter.
“You need to be someone who has confidence in your coordination to get on the scooter,” Paiement said with a smile. “It’s for the crowd that’s into mountain biking or rafting or hiking.”
Although I’m about as confident in my sense of balance as I am the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year, I still opted for a two-wheeled ride.
A bike helmet, knee pads and a pair of gloves are required for the scooters, and after strapping up, I met my dogs for the trip – Tonka and Yeti.
Both huskies are lead dogs during the winter months (the dogs at the front of the team, who literally lead the rest on their way), and Snow Caps manager Sarah Spalla said they try to use at least one lead dog in each pair for the scooters.
I was given some quick instructions on the scooter, and before I knew it, we were off, my scooter squad following the path of Paiement’s team.
The initial jolt of the dogs pulling against their harnesses is enough to get you thinking about just one thing: Don’t fall off.
But once we got going, the ride was surprisingly smooth. Tonka and Yeti simply followed Paiement’s lead, and I didn’t have to do much except avoid big rocks and some trees. And because the scooter can swerve easily off the path of the dogs (think of water skiing behind a boat), it makes it easy to avoid objects on the trail that the dogs simply hop over.
It was a stark contrast to being pulled by an eight-dog team in the winter – which I had the pleasure of doing back in February – in that you seem to have much more control of yourself. On sled, a sharp turn or a large dip in the trail can send you flying off into the snow – which I also had the pleasure of doing back in February. On a scooter, you right yourself simply by balancing.
It’s certainly not what anyone would expect when they hear the word “dogsledding,” and that’s exactly Paiement’s point about the whole thing.
“It’s not like talking about rafting, and everyone can just picture a raft going down a river,” he said. “It’s tough to explain to people.”
Well, let’s just put it simply: You don’t need snow to dogsled.
Reservations are required for both tours and trips. For more information or to book a reservation, visit http://www.snowcapssleddogs.com or call (970) 453-7855.
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