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Dashing Through the Snow: Experience the Thrill of a Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tour

Some wonder if dog sledding is safe for the animals. The answer is a resounding yes.

Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours™ has been delighting tourist and locals in Canmore since 1983. Launched by Connie and Charles Arsenault, who had a desire to share the beauty of Rockies and the tradition of dog sledding, the company remains a family business with the couple’s son, Jereme, and his family now at the helm.

“Dog sledding has a deep history in Canada,” says Jereme. “It’s believed that dog sledding was invented by the First Nations people long before Canada became a country. The Disney movie Togo, which we’re proud to be part of, is based on the historical tale of Leonhard Seppala and his dog sled team’s delivery of serum in response to an epidemic in 1925. Even today, sled dogs are helping transport vaccines to remote communities in Alaska.”

He continues, “Culturally, dog sledding unlocks a part of yourself, transporting you back in time, connecting you with the land and how humans traditionally lived. Being able to experience our historical relationship with dogs, if even for a brief moment, is very magical and memorable. Dog sledding is like being hooked up to a furry rocket ship! It’s no surprise our tours are on so many people’s bucket lists!”

Some wonder if dog sledding is safe for the animals. The answer is a resounding yes.

“Our dogs are the most important part of what we do; their care and wellbeing are always our top priority,” assures Jereme. “Our business is built on family legacy. We take immense pride in ensuring our values and ethics are ingrained in everything we do.” Details of their dogs’ welfare are readily available on the Snowy Owl Tours’ website.

As with many businesses, COVID-19 has affected Snow Owl; and so has the direction of Alberta’s economic future.

“Our biggest challenges are a decimated tourism industry due to COVID 19, closed international borders, the weather (too much snow, not enough snow, too cold, to warm), and the conditions on Spray Lakes Road,” says Jereme. “Our greatest challenge over the last eight years has been product development of new summer and winter dog sledding trails. There’s so much potential in our province for eco-tourism and responsible growth, but navigating the communication and application procedures between Banff National Park, Alberta Environment and Parks, Forestry, MD of Bighorn and all the private leaseholders in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country that overlap, is exhausting.” He points out, “For a province that wants to generate another $10 billion in tourism revenues by 2030, while steering away from fossil fuels, they don’t seem very motivated to facilitate.”

The family business is determined, however, to continue helping people enjoy the wonders of dog sledding despite the setbacks. In fact, there has never been a better time to give this activity a try.

“Dog sledding is a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature in the winter while maintaining social distancing. Guests are required to wear face coverings during their check in at our office and during the transportation up to our site. Our fleet of transport vehicles follows Alberta Health standards by maintaining a six foot distance between each cohort. Once up at the dog sledding site, guests keep within their cohort while enjoying their tour. We’re the only company to offer self-driven sleds, which is the most popular option, so the majority of our dog teams are driven solely by the guests themselves! We also offer instructor-driven sleds for people who want to sit back, relax and enjoy their tour.”

He concludes, “It's the real deal here at Snowy Owl.  Whether it's our entry-level two hour Powder Hound Express or our two-day day overnight Ghosts of Fortune Mountain winter camping adventure, everything you see and everything you do on our tours is authentic.
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