Every time Nick Miller, manager at Krabloonik Kennels, starts to hitch up his team, they go crazy.
“They love it,” Miller says. “As soon as they realize they’re going out, they get excited, even if they’ve already been out that day.”
Dog-sledding has become increasingly popular in many Colorado mountain towns and ski areas as a different — and effortless — way to explore the winter wilderness. Krabloonik, in Snowmass, is one of the oldest and most famous dog-sledding operations in the state. For over 30 years, it has been offering sled rides to visitors. With more than 200 dogs, Krabloonik can accommodate numerous guests on any given day. It mostly offers two-hour rides, and sleds can handle up to two adults and a child as passengers. Afterward, you can chow down on the Krabloonik Restaurant’s gourmet food, the cost of which is included in the price of the trip. Be prepared to sample some game dishes — trout, pheasant, wild boar and other treats — accompanied by a fine wine list.
Dog-sledding has grown a lot in recent years, Miller says.
“There have been a couple of movies that have made people curious,” he says. “And the thing is, it’s a lot of fun. It’s also a great activity for those who don’t ski, or who want a break from skiing.”Because Krabloonik uses freight sleds and because it navigates pretty technical courses (including down and across ski slopes), passengers usually aren’t allowed to drive.
“But if someone really wants to try it, we’ll try to find a place where they can do it safely,” he says. (www.krabloonik.com)
Krabloonik may be one of the oldest Colorado dogsled operations, but it’s not the only one.
Nova Guides, of the Vail Valley, also offers dogsled rides. If you’ve ever wanted to see the historic home of the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale, near Leadville, this is your chance. Soldiers trained here in World War II, but now it’s a year-round recreational area. A silent trip through the Pando Valley will remind you of how tough this terrain can be. You’ll even get the chance to drive the dogs yourself, if you want. (www.novaguides.com).
In Vail itself, Mountain Musher’s friendly dogs will haul you along trails that wind through 10,000 acres of private land for a unique view of the Rocky Mountains in winter. If the dogs look familiar, they’ve been featured on “The Today Show” and The Learning Channel. (www.mountainmusher.com)
With Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge, you’ll be the musher as you wind your way along the Swan River. The tour, a little more than an hour, can accommodate up to six passengers on the dogsled and the passenger sleigh. (www.goodtimesadventures.com)
A true backcountry sledding experience is yours when you hop on Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park. The tours, which last from 30 minutes to nearly 2 hours, include knowledgeable mushers who will tell you about the animals, trees and mountains you’ll see. (www.dogsledrides.com/winterpark)
The prize for the funniest name goes to the Lucky Cat Dog Farm near Gunnison, where rides can be tailored to the guests’ wishes. Rides last up to 3½ hours, so this is an in-depth experience. They can include lunch on the trail. The motto? “Great athletes train year round, perform under pressure, and scratch themselves in public.” (www.luckycatdogfarm.com)
Your dog-powered exploration of southwestern Colorado can begin at the Durango Dog Ranch in Hesperus. You can take mushing lessons if you want to drive your own team. Sleds accommodate two adult riders, and hot drinks and snacks are provided. (www.durangodogranch.com)
If You Go
For any ride, dress warmly, in layers, with warm boots, mittens and hat. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen on any exposed body parts. Contact the above operators for reservations (a must) and specific instructions or restrictions (such as weight limits).
For a full list of operators, log on to www.dogsledrides.com/colorado.
Next stop: the Iditarod?
Linda DuVal is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.