- Posted February 14, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Winter Olympics 2014
A paradise for dog lovers – L’Epiphanie dog sledding festival
- Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer
Mandeep S. Oberoi*
I had moved to Canada from Tampa in Florida way back in 2009. It has been a temperature shock for me, having moved from a region having an average temperature of 95 deg. F (35 deg. C) up to Montreal, with an average of negative -31 deg. F (-35 deg. C) with wind chill during extreme winters in the mountains. I had read about temperature cycling for military grade integrated circuits to work in extreme conditions in my electrical engineering classrooms. I never knew that I would be destined to eventually face it myself as a test sample in real life. It has taken me a few years to acclimate with the extreme cold weather. It was a long learning curve to dress up for winter. Though having passed through that phase now, I continue to be amazed with the plethora of interesting outdoor opportunities that winters can offer. Some of these I could have only read about in my classrooms while growing up in the Himalayas in India. One such opportunity came up when a fellow hiker friend posted about an event to attend an international dog sledding competition on January 25th, 2014 at a town called L’Epiphanie in the outskirts of Montreal, close to the Laurentian Mountains.
My first thoughts about the sport
My first reaction was to validate whether dog sledding is still practiced? I found out that it is still practiced as a niche sport. I found out that dog sledding was being practiced by some cultures like the First Nations in North America, as far back as the 10th century. The sport involves special kinds of dogs such as huskies and malamutes because of their endurance and speed. They look very beautiful and of course they are regarded as man’s best friends.
Teamwork is the key
It was really interesting to watch a special co-ordination of teams of 7 to 9 bodies, including human and canine, to work together as a team. The dog sled team is assembled in a special way involving leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs selected for their endurance, strength, and speed by the mushers. Musher is the term attributed to people who compete in cross-country races with dog teams and sleds.
The dog sled track was 10 kilometers long. We had gone there as a group of six enthusiasts, though myself and a fellow hiker friend Kamila Bittova decided to walk all the way through the tracks to cheer up the teams en-route. During the 3-hour walk, we were offered high speed pillion rides, hitting up to over 100 KMPH on a ski-doo snowmobile. The rest of my friends remained in the arena and they watched a few dog shows.
L’Epiphanie Dog Sledding Festival
L’Epiphanie is a small town one hour Northwest of Montreal in the French speaking, Quebec province of Canada. The town brings together up to 100 dog teams from across North America every year since 2004 during its famous dog sledding festival. This year we had 36 teams competing in the sport. The participants came from all across Canada, and even a few from Vermont and Connecticut in the USA. The festival was a real attraction for all winter outdoor sports enthusiasts including families, children, hikers, and photographers alike. Joy rides for the dog sled were reasonably priced at $5 CAN for ten minutes. I have seen prices up to $80 CAN at other places and the mushers at L’Epiphanie were really interactive and friendly. They happily answered to questions and explained the sport to the enthusiasts. There was a free 30-minute horse sled ride across the town that was sponsored by the city and the organizers of the dog sledding festival. An added attraction was a free ice-skating rink along with other winter sports for the kids. We could eat popular maple syrup toffees made fresh on snow. Maple syrup toffees are considered a delicacy during winter in Quebec. The event had an outdoor bonfire and an outdoor BBQ along with a heated cafeteria. The event hosted a variety of exhibitions for dog lovers who came in from all parts of the world. It was truly an international event. My favourite was the stall with Mira dogs that are trained specially to help mobility impaired people. I found out that “A dog in need is a dog indeed.” Each one of those Mira dogs can cost up to $30,000 CAN after training.
With the heat about Sochi Winter 2014 Olympics still on, I would hope someday this sport could be taken up for the games.
I am happy to be introduced to winter sports and am consistently learning about newer activities. The next few events lined up in my agenda include ice-fishing, winter outdoor BBQs amidst snow, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, the winter festival of lights called “Montréal En-Lumiere”, and snow tubing at “Glissades des Pays d’en haut” which is North America’s biggest snow park during the upcoming weekends. Watching the ice-sculptures at the Winterlude festival and ice-skating at Rideau Canal in Ottawa was a lot of fun last weekend. The Rideau Canal happens to be world’s biggest ice-skating rink and some people go downtown to work by ice-skating in the Canal.
*Mandeep S. Oberoi twitter @mandeepsoberoi is an outdoor enthusiast. He is an intermediate hiker, kayaker, camper, poet, and writer. He has ventured across Laurentian Mountains and Eastern Quebec townships in Canada, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in the West Coast of USA, Scottish Highlands, Toco Range in the Caribbean, Swiss Interlaken Mountains, and the Himalayas, among others. He works professionally as SAP financial services consultant for his firm Dexteyra Consulting Group Inc.