This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 Issue of Invest In Style Magazine
Once upon a time, the dog sled was one of the preferred methods of travel in northern Ontario but now slicing through the snow behind a team of huskies is a true winter thrill.
By Matt Driscoll
A throwback activity that calls to mind the adventures of some of the region’s earliest explorers, hunters and trappers, a dog sled trip in Muskoka is a journey back in time.
Thankfully, the days of pitching a tent and making yourself a fire to outlast the long northern nights are over. These days, you can pick how long you want to travel, and when the mushing ends you can relax your weary bones with a warm drink in front of a roaring fire. There are trips designed with all levels of experience in mind, from the expert musher to the first-timer.
Located just outside of Huntsville, in northern Muskoka, North Ridge Ranch offers half-day tours and one-hour tours most days throughout the winter season.
Brad and Leah Fetterley have operated the kennel there for more than 15 years. Owners and operators of North Ridge Ranch, the Fetterleys run a team of more than 60 sled dogs.
The dogsled trails are all private and located on a system of trails spread throughout 500 acres, utilizing some of the neighbouring acreages as well. The trails wind their way through a quiet and serene winter forest landscape.
All of the dogs at North Ridge Ranch are Alaskan huskies who live on the property. The majority of the huskies were born at the ranch or have been adopted in. According to the owners, the dogs all have names, personalities and quirks, and they make up the Fetterley’s extended, chosen, four-legged family.
These Alaskan huskies look quite different than the huskies most people would recognize. According to the owners, these huskies are slim, trim and healthy athletes, capable of running many miles a day while hauling a sled and a human behind them. Their look is very diverse as they are not a pure breed, but rather they’re bred for their athletic build, adaptation to cold temperatures, and desire to run and pull. Alaskan huskies are pound for pound one of the strongest mammals on earth and they are often used in many of the most high-level endurance races in the world, including the Iditarod.
The ranch offers small tours of four to five guest sleds per tour. The Fetterleys teach guests how to drive the sled prior to heading out so newbies know the basics of dog sledding. The guide sled is the first sled out and then the customer sleds follow in behind. The guide leading the trip is always watching to make sure all the dogs and people are kept safe.
Several other tour operators host guided dog sled adventures in and around the Muskoka region. Winter is the ideal time to enjoy what Muskoka has to offer, and a dog sled adventure is a journey back in time and an unforgettable winter adventure.