Dogsledding is an act in which a sled or sleigh is pulled by one or more dogs. You can travel over ice and through snow when using this unique method. Therefore, it should come of no surprise to learn that dogsledding, although rare for ‘us’, is common in the arctic. There are numerous types of sleds and they all differ depending on their function, some are used for racing whereas others are used for off-trail runs. Arctic dogsledding is normally practised under somewhat extreme conditions and although it might not be for the faint of heart it is most definitely a sport meant for animal-lovers and thrill-seekers alike.
Lucky for us, not only we know about dogsledding, we have first-hand experience in two of the most incredible places in the world; Alaska and Greenland. We are honoured to form part of such a large and talented community. Wildthentic’s team of local guides stretches all the way from Costa Rica to Greenland. We are fortunate enough to experience fantastic adventures alongside fabulous humans. Julien, who is a dog musher based in Ilulissat, Greenland, just so happens to be one of these humans.
Julien, from France, is new to the Wildthentic team and is spearheading our Dogsledding in Greenland tour which was launched in early February of this year. He has nearly 10 years of experience and has managed to form meaningful and lasting relationships with not only Greenland’s striking land but also with his lively team of dogs. Read on to learn more about why and how Julien became interested in arctic dogsledding.
Our Arctic Dogsledding Interview with Musher Based in Greenland
How many years have you lived in Greenland and why have you stayed?
I came the first time in Greenland in 2004. At that time I was Pro Action sport Athlete and I came to Greenland to climb and BASE jump the giants Ilulissat’s Iceberg. It was after a mountain accident, in Interlaken Switzerland, where I almost died and was stuck in the hospital for a year, that I decided to put my action sport “career” aside and came back to settle in Greenland. I don’t know how to explain it, but as soon as I stepped foot on Greenland I felt at peace, I felt that I was coming back home. That was back in February of 2008, and I simply decided to never leave…
When did you begin dogsledding?
I started dogsledding in 2009 with Niels Gundel my “adoptive father”. But I really started on my own with my own dog team in 2014.
Why did you begin dogsledding? And why did you continue?
I started dogsledding just out of curiosity and to see what it was like. Once I began, I then saw all the possibilities that travelling by dogs can bring. When you start to travel far and spend time with your dogs, you get this unexplainable connexion with the dogs and the nature around you. It’s incredible and supremely profound. That is the WHY I fell in love with dogsledding and am still very much in love with it.
What is the hardest part of dogsledding?
The summer when you can’t dogsled LOL
What has been your most memorable dogsledding trip?
I have many memorable trips. But, I’ll say the first time I stepped on the Icecap with the dogs was probably my most emotional experience. My most memorable trip was to Uummannaq after reopening a road that had not been used for 22 years due to the global warming. Also, my trip to the Cap York in the footsteps of the admiral Robert Peary, was truly unforgetable.
Has dogsledding changed over the years?
Yes, when I started everybody in town was dogsledding. We had at that time 10,000 dogs in town of only 4,000 inhabitants. That number has shrunk significantly, today it’s less than 2,500 dogs for over 5,000 inhabitants. Although people tend to see the bad in this and say it’s negative, I usually disagree, I think it’s a good thing. Before many people had dogs because they had to. There were many instances of dogs being mistreated and poorly fed, especially during the summer season. Now the people that have dogs are only those who want to have dogs, because they like it. Now, the dogs are treated correctly. They are well feed, loved, and taken care of. The veterinary services are also better now, and now dogs have better health care than they ever had before.
The Experience is Worth all the Hard Work!
We couldn’t agree more with Julien’s sentiments. Those of you who have experienced arctic dogsledding and mushing know what it’s like to rush past the stillness of the snow-covered mountains while you and a team of dogs race to wherever it is you’re going. It is in those moments that we as a species can find peace and tranquillity while also experiencing a rush.
Of course, mushing doesn’t come easy to anyone, it requires a lot of patience, persistence, and hard work, but we’re sure that if you manage to talk to a musher they will tell you that it is all worth it. The experience is worth it, the journey is worth it, the dogs are worth it.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post. Thank you for reading and a big thanks to Julien for taking the time to answer our questions. Leave a comment below and tell us about your arctic dogsledding adventure. Why not join Julien during his next unforgettable Dogsledding Day Experience?