With more than 40 dogs, six new puppies, and twins Thomas and Clara approaching their first birthday, Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures owner Chris Schwanke has been kept very busy these past few months.
And with his fifth winter season in Sun Peaks about to begin — his fourteenth season working with sled dogs overall — life for the mountain man is only getting busier.
Schwanke made the move from Saskatchewan to Alberta 15 years ago, like many, heading to Banff for a season of snowboarding and good times. Looking for work, he responded to an online ad to work as a dogsled guide.
“After a while, it went from a job to a passion. I got some dogs of my own, I stopped snowboarding as much, and I entered some dogsled races.”
Racing has been a highlight of his dogsledding career, with his first ever race in Fernie bringing back some fond memories.
“It’s a totally different experience. You’re at the starting line with 20 to 30 other teams, and hundreds of dogs. The dogs know they’re about to race, and energy levels and excitement is high. Pulling up to the starting gate is an amazing feeling,” Schwanke explains.
After several years working for others, Schwanke had the opportunity to set up his own business in Sun Peaks, giving visitors a unique experience in the trails around Sun Peaks.
“We were in Sun Peaks less than 24 hours before we knew we wanted to stay,” his wife, Taryn, says.
With the season just beginning, Schwanke is busy training around 40 active dogs — including six young dogs, last year’s litter of puppies. They’ve now grown to size and are ready to pull sleds themselves.
Schwanke trains the dogs using fire breaks and logging roads around Whitecroft, with the dogs running ahead of a 4×4 quad vehicle until enough snow falls and the sled is brought out, running the dogs several times a day to get in top shape for winter.
This year, Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures will be offering two tours — the classic Born to Run tour, where guests have the opportunity to get some hands on time with the dogs, meet the new puppies, and enjoy a dogsled trip on Nordic trails and snowshoe trails to Little McGillivray Lake. Guests are even given an opportunity to drive the sled themselves if they’re feeling game.
New this year is the Bark at the Moon tour. Starting at 5 p.m. these shorter evening tours will offer a similar experience to the Born to Run tours, but with the added atmosphere of dogsledding through the forest at night, lit only by headlamps.
Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures has just welcomed a new litter of puppies. Born in early November, the new batch to mum Sneaky and dad Crazy includes four females and two males, and they’re in need of names.
Schwanke says he likes to keep a theme for each litter of puppies, such as a group of items or a common first letter. Last year’s pups were beer themed – Porter, Pilsner, Sleeman, Honey, Maple and Amber.
Send your suggestions to SPIN or comment below and we’ll pass them along!
Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures can be booked through the Adventure Centre by phoning 250-578-5542.