The Best Attraction for Winter Holidays posted by titoironman, September 26, 2015, 13:28

People

When winter approaches, people can be categorized into two types: a winter lover or a winter hater. The winter hater is the person who wants to hibernate till spring. This person hates cold weather and vows to move to a warmer climate when the outside temps start to dip down to below freezing. This isn't the person who will take an interest in any outside winter activities, unless watching them on television in a warm house with a blanket wrapped around them. They truly cannot function during the cold weather months and rely on others to help them "tough it out" till spring.

The winter lover is excited at the prospect of the coming winter, loves cold weather and the sports that are associated with the season and is anxious to participate in them. This is the type of person who looks forward to being out in the snowy, icy air and taking part in all the outside activities that go with it. Winter sports are not for the faint of heart - they are meant for the ruddy, hardy person who doesn't freak out once the mercury plunges below 32 degrees. These people are the type who will be receptive to trying something new, no matter what the thermometer says. They just stack on more heavy clothing and proceed. In fact, they are invigorated by the cold, and therefore, are more apt to try out a new sport or activity. Even a suggestion of a new winter sport, or one that is not new, but they haven't tried before, is a possibility for them. Such is the case of the sport of dog sledding. It's definitely not new, just new to the person trying it out for the first time. Most people don't know a whole lot about it, and even less of its history through the years, yet when introduced to it, are open to try it.

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Where it came from


Dog sleds have been in existence for a long time, and as far as history can tell, they first appeared around the 10th century. The dog sled originated out of the need to travel between snow and ice-crusted towns. It was simple: there was just no other way to safely, or surely, travel. In some remote northern areas, sled dogs are the only reliable mode of transportation. They have taken credit for being the ones that people can rely on, and rightly so. Especially in Arctic areas, sled dogs were used to haul supplies to and from places where travel by any other means was inaccessible. People relied heavily on them for transport because there were no other options available at the time. In fact, in some northernmost locations, such as Alaska and the Canadian North, sled dogs were instrumental in delivering the mail to remote areas. These dogs played a major part in the Alaskan Gold Rush. Sled dogs have been used in countries that are known for their cold temperatures, such as Canada, Siberia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Over the years, it came to be known that the best breed to ride a dog sled would be a Siberian Husky or an Alaskan Malamute. Both breeds have been top choices when it is time to ride a dog sled. These breeds were selected based on their good looks and their willingness to work, even when they are tired. However, when the dog sled is used for racing, the breed that is primarily used is the Alaskan Husky. This is the number one breed choice of dog sled racers. They are chosen due to their long lasting endurance, speed and dedication to running.

However, all of these breeds are able to tolerate extremely frigid temperatures due to the thick double coat that insulates them against the extreme cold. This coat also repels moisture and covers their small ears. Covering their noses with large puffy tails help them to warm the air before it gets into the dogs' lungs when the dog is idle.

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First steps

Once a person decides to try and learn how to ride a dog sled, there are certain procedures to go by. First, the amateur sledder is given a tour guide, who will help teach the rider all the rules of safe dog sledding. This is a sport that can be quite dangerous, both to the dogs and the rider, should the rider not be prepared in the rules of proper dog sledding. When riding over the rough snow, it is extremely important that the rider be prepared to handle the sled, whether he is alone, or has others on the sled with him. It is the driver's job to protect those on the sled and riders should be particularly interested in his experience and expertise before they accept a ride on his dog sled. In fact, it is advised that those interested in the sport take time to get the know the rules and facts before trying it themselves.

The best way to start is to arrange a "tourist ride", in which a professional "musher" (driver) will steer the sled while you ride along with him doing the work of driving the sled as this activity is definitely not for the novice driver and it takes a lot of time and practice before a driver would be ready to try a solo run. Like any other new sport, study the facts behind dog sleds so you get a better understanding of the history and popularity of the sport. Learn the key ingredients that make up the sport and how those things are integrated to make the sport work the way it does. The active participant in the sport of dog sledding and dog sled racing is the one who has the most knowledge of the sport, including knowing about the dogs, the sleds, what is required of the dog sled riders, etc. There is a lot to learn and having those facts intact can only enhance the experience of dog sledding. The dog sled rider needs to know that he is the one in control of the sled and in control of the dogs, and to do that effectively the basic rules of dog sledding need to be known.

So, when first starting out, the best thing to do is to have an experienced "musher" with you. Watch how he handles the sled and the dogs. Of course, don't expect to handle a sled as smoothly as he does on your first solo trip out, that just won't happen. It takes time to perfect the way to efficiently ride and steer the sled. Although you may be eager to get started, this isn't a sport for the uninformed. Remember that to prevent injury to yourself and/or the dogs you need your experience (so spend as much as possible time getting that) and knowledge to work together. One without the other just won't do it. Don't cut the training time short because the more familiar you are with the workings of the sled and of the dogs themselves, the more successful you will be. Even though it may be tempting, jumping on a sled for the first time and yelling a loud "mush!" to the team of dogs isn't the thing to do. You can put yourself at risk of injury, damage to the sled and injury to the dogs. This is not a sport for amateurs. It is the sport that requires some studying, some knowledge and some common sense in order to make it a successful adventure for the novice sledder.

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Racing

Dog sledding was presented at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York as a "demo-sport" and again at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, but the sport was never elevated to event status, much to the disappointment of the fans of this sport.

Once a person has conquered his knowledge of the sport, and feels he is capable of taking on the job of "musher", another part of the sport may seem interesting as well. That is the dog sled racing. It's big in cold weather parts of the world and only the best dog sled riders compete in these dog sled races. The most popular races occur in the Arctic regions of the world, including the United States, Russia, Canada and the northern European countries. The race consists of a marked course which the sleds are to follow closely. The sled that gets to the finish line, while not veering off from the marked course, in the least amount of time, is declared the winner.

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Most races are categorized according to their distance, 4 -100 miles (a sprint race), 100 - 300 miles (mid-distance race) and 300 - over 1,000 miles (long distance). These races can also be divided into the number of dogs allowed to pull a sled, which include either 4, 6, 8, 10 or an unlimited number of dogs.

The races are determined either to be timed starts, where the teams start one after another and they are competing against the clock, not each other. The races can also be mass starts, in which all the dog sledders start at the same time, and this type is more popular in Europe and Canada.

Most people are familiar with the famous dog sled races, such as The Iditarod, which is a course of 1,000 miles in Alaska, starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome and takes place in the beginning of March. The Iditarod is for the most talented of sled drivers and definitely not for beginners. Those just starting out in the sport can learn a lot by just watching the race. The other most popular race in the United States is the American Dog Derby, which is held on the third weekend in February in Ashton, Idaho. The derby began in 1917 and was popular for years, but then for some reason, it's popularity began to wane in the 1960's and then picked up again after that. It is now wildly popular in cold weather climates and people are once again enjoying the sport.

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Care


The actual racing is what the public sees, but there are some very important things going on in the off-season that the public doesn't see. Consider the fact that the dog sled race driver and his dog team are always together. They have a good relationship and they trust each other. The driver has vowed to take good care of them. He knows that during the times the dogs are racing, they will eat up to 10,000! calories a day and this will keep them warm and provide the energy they need to run. When it is off-season, they will drop down their food consumption to only 800 calories a day. Most of the time, they will eat dry food, but occasionally the driver will add some fish or meat to add extra protein. Puppies will start their training by getting used to people handling them and then they will learn how to relate to the other dogs. As time goes on, the puppies will learn from the older dogs and take their own place with the team when they are older.

Husky and Malamut dogs have a proud heritage af sledding and they will continue to excel in the sport, based on good training and care. If the trainers are willing to spend lots of time with the dogs and make them learn the routine and procedures of the sport, they in turn will perform as expected, and no trainer can ask more than that.

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So the next time you are lacing up those heavy boots to go outside and enjoy the wintry air, give yourself the chance to check out the sport attraction of dog sledding. It's definately can become not only a cold weather tradition, but also you may just surprise yourself and find that all of sudden, this sport is your new favorite!
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