Snowpak Dog Sledding Adventures
Riversdale, Nova Scotia
**2018: Please note: this business is no longer in operation**
*Disclosure: Our family received a trip on the dog sledding adventure in exchange for this blog post. It just means we get to tell you about the most incredible family adventure! All opinions are our own.*
That was the most incredible outdoor, family adventure we have ever had.
“The only problem is, Mom,” says Daniel (9), “I can’t decide what was my favourite part!”
Our family had the incredible opportunity to go dog sledding with Snowpak Dog Sledding Adventures in Riversdale, Nova Scotia (between Truro and New Glasgow).
I first heard about this dog sledding adventure through my friend Nicole, who teaches tourism at the Community College. She had written about it in a winter-fun column. As soon as I read it, I knew we had to do it! Nicole graciously set me up with owner Michael Stratton, with whom we were able to make arrangements to come up for a visit.
Dog sledding in the woodlands of Nova Scotia allows you to take a trip back in time to when this was one of the main modes of winter transportation through the Canadian wilderness.
Enjoy the winter landscape as you quietly glide along the snow with your team of dogs and their musher, then end your day with a hot drink and a snack in a rustic wall tent like those used by early explorers.
As it turned out, our visit was on the coldest day of the winter with a wind chill of -25! However, nothing was going to get in the way of this adventure!
We bundled up and headed out into the woods. Because you are in the woods, it is sheltered and a bit warmer, but do dress appropriately with lots of layers and definitely a scarf to wrap around your face.
Before heading out on the sleds, we were taught about dog sledding.
There is a whole series of commands. Here is a great explanation from the website Athropolis.
The most common commands for a dog team are:
• Gee!: Turn to the right.
• Haw!: Turn to the left.
• Easy!: Slow down.
• Whoa: Stop.
• On By!: Pass another team or other distraction.
This talk was fantastic. David says that not only did it tell the safety aspect (we are being pulled along by a ton and a ½ of dog power, after all) but we also got a sense of the dog teaming community from Nova Scotia all the way to Alaska.
The boys listened so intently to his talk, and absorbed all this information! He would have been a great school teacher!
Hooking up the Dogs
When it came time to hook up the dogs, it was a group effort.
Some people were assigned to stand on the brakes (because as soon as the dogs are attached, they will want to start running!)
Others, like David, had to stand with some of the other dogs, to make sure they weren’t chewing their lines or jumping on each other while waiting for the sled to be hooked up.
The dogs used at Snowpak are actually a mixture of Alaskan Sled Dogs and Siberian Huskies. Most of the dogs are bred on site, while others were delivered there by animal control.
They are really incredibly docile and friendly, but with such energy, they just want to run!
Two sleds run at the same time over a 5 km course through the woods. The scenery is so incredibly beautiful, especially as you come around the corner to a mountain view, look off.
“It was kind of scary when you were leaning over the edge, because you think you are going to fall over, but you actually weren’t,” said Thomas (7).
The entire sled ride takes about 20 minutes. It is so relaxing to just sit there, enjoy the scenery, and to take in the fact that you are on a dog sled.
How cool and unique is that?
Thanks to my friend Lisa for letting me use her Go-Pro camera!
Meeting the Dogs
After everyone in the group had a ride, the dogs were unhooked and returned to their kennel. We gave them a few minutes to calm down while we had hot chocolate and cookies in the warm hut.
Then, we headed into the kennel to meet the dogs.
This was such a great part of the day’s adventure, and just as much fun as the dog sledding itself.
“It was fun to play with the dogs afterwards because Jumble was jumping on me,” Thomas said.
They made quick friends with the dogs – playing with them, being licked, and providing lots of love and attention.
I could not get over how friendly and affectionate these dogs were! I would have taken any of them home as a family pet!
Want to try the dog sleds without the snow? Try a cart ride in the fall!
SnowPak Kennels has specifically designed carts that the dogs pull during fall training and when there isn’t enough snow for the sleds.
They offer shorter, but exciting rides on these carts – with cart rides we also supply the same instruction and training as for sled rides.
Pricing: $20-$30 (+tax) – family and group rates are negotiable.
Snowshoeing on Site
The scenery at SnowPak Kennels is stunningly beautiful. There are so many trails through the woods, that you can spend all day exploring it.
Bring your snowshoes and discover the trails.
We would have done this, had it not been so cold on the day we went.
Want to just go snowshoeing on site without the dog sledding? That’s possible too, for just $10 a person.
If winter camping is your thing, you can stay on site!
Opportunities are available to individuals, families, and groups and you can use a combination of walled tents and regular tents. As part of this package, you get instruction on winter survival, and you also get a dog sled adventure!
Contact them for prices and details.
Reservations and Special Notes
Your sledding package includes a tour of our kennel, meeting all of our dogs, instructions on how to handle and harness sled dogs, how to hook dogs up to the sled, basic dog mushing terminology and commands, a dog sled ride, and hot drinks and snacks in our wall tent – the ride itself covers several kilometers – the time it takes depends on weather and trail conditions.
Pricing: the basic cost for the above package is $50-$80 (+tax) – small children may be able to pair up with each other or a parent – family and group rates are negotiable – families or groups can also book the kennel
SnowPak Dog Sledding Adventures is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays whenever snow conditions are suitable.
**Please note: the dog sleds can carry up to a maximum of 250 pounds**
SnowPak Dog Sledding Adventures is located on the highway between Truro and New Glasgow, in Riversdale.
From the Valley it takes approximately 1.5 hours to get there.
Summer Family Fun: White Water Rafting
The Strattons also offer a summer adventure package! Tidal Bore Rafting is offered through the Whitewater Adventures Division of Stratton Outdoors Ltd.
We are definitely heading back this summer for some more family fun!
Staying in Truro
If you are not going to winter camp on site, you still might want to make a weekend out of your adventure as we did.
Although drivable in a day, we decided to spend the night before in Truro, because it was only a 30 minute drive from there.
Because of a provincial swim meet and a hockey tournament that weekend, it was really difficult to find a place to stay.
We originally made a booking in a nearby motel, but when we found out a murder had happened there a few years previously, we felt a bit nervous about the area!
Thanks to a last minute cancellation, we were able to get a room at the Comfort Inn right off the highway. And, lucky for us, it included breakfast, too!
My British husband agrees!
We had a fabulous time in Truro and surrounding area for a weekend of outdoor family fun! We are still reeling from our fantastic adventure with Snowpak Dog Adventures.
Do yourselves a favour, and give your family one of the most unique trips of the year!
Memories are made of this! Travel local. Support local. And have fun with your family!