Updated: Jul 14, 2020
1. Do I really get to drive my own dog team?
YES! 99% of our clients have never stepped foot on a dog sled before. With the proper instruction, environment, and encouragement, a truly amazing experience is waiting... At Arctic Dog Adventure Co. guests drive their own small dog teams made up of 3-6 dogs, depending on your weight. We have taught people from 9 to 89 years old how to drive their own dog teams. Your knees must work and you must have two hands. You must be able to hop up if you fall down. Be prepared to tip over and not let go of the sled! If you are concerned about your ability to drive the sled, please give us a call. We will do our best to accommodate your needs!
2. How do you remember all your dog’s names?
Easy !! Each dog is an individual with its own unique personality and character traits. A lot of our dogs are related and look very similar, but we have known almost all since birth (Sunshine, Rusja & Wiluna were born in Ohio and Finland, respectively) and have no trouble telling who's who. Once you meet all the dogs and get to know them, they are easy to tell apart!
The underlying assumption to this question is often that the dogs are used only for mushing, and not interacted with frequently enough to be able to discern between them. Not so! Dogs are not like a pair of skates or a snowmachine, to be dusted off only when it is time to use them. We LOVE our dogs. We are down in the dog yard with them several times a day, often for hours at a time, whether cleaning the lot, feeding, clipping nails, or preparing for a training run. When I am training for Iditarod, I easily spend 12+ hours of the day in constant company with my sled dog team, feeding, cleaning, and out on the trail.
Running a tour company, our schedule is a little more relaxed, but we still aim to spend as much time with our dogs as we can. In fact, that the main reason we started the company! Dog life is the life for us, and we look forward to sharing our lifestyle with you and yours.
3. Do you have vegan/dairy-free/gluten-free options?
YES! We are happy to accomodate all dietary preferences and take pride in the quality of our menus. We ask you during the booking process to please disclose any food preferences so that we may accommodate you for your tour. Our vegan chocolate cake is a favorite amongst ALL guests, vegan or not!
3. What do I wear for my dog sled tour?
We will provide you with bibs, parkas, boots and mittens for your dog sled tour but you will need to come prepared with good base layers, scarfs & hats.
Aurora Overnight and Multi Day Tour participants: You will be provided with a gear list after booking. We will provide you with bibs, parkas, boots and mittens for your dog sled tour, but you will be expected to bring additional items according to the gear list.
Day Tours: Bring your warmest clothes and we will supplement the rest. It is important that you come with your own scarf and hat. Read on for suggestions on how to dress for Alaska in winter.
Due to our location in the hills, it is usually significantly warmer (20 to 30 degrees F) at the Arctic Dog homestead than in downtown Fairbanks, Two Rivers, or North Pole. That being said, this is Interior Alaska and it can still be cold. You will need to be properly outfitted in order to enjoy your tour. Cold hands and feet will put a damper on your experience pretty quickly! You need to come prepared with good socks, base layers, insulating layers, a neck gaitor/scarf and a hat.
Good gear is expensive. If you don't want to invest in cold weather gear for your trip to Alaska, we highly recommend renting outerwear for your time here. Interior Alaska's temperatures can not only be uncomfortable -- they can be dangerous, especially if you are unused to cold weather.
GEAR RENTALS IN FAIRBANKS:
We recommend Alaska Element: https://alaskaelement.com. They will even meet you at the airport upon arrival.
Learning how to dress for the cold is a skill. The key to staying warm in extremely cold climates is LAYERS. All of your clothing should be layerable — meaning you should be able to wear all of it at once (and still be able to comfortably bend over to tie your shoes). Layers trap insulated air against your body, conserving the heat your body produces. Layers also allow you to more easily regulate your temperature. Sweating in the cold is a big no-no... your clothes will become damp and you will quickly become chilled. You want to be warm, not hot!
Tip: Buy layers in successively larger sizes; that way you can ensure that your underlayers are going to fit under your overlayer! For example: a M fleece jacket layered under a L down jacket.
SUGGESTED GEAR LIST FOR VISITING FAIRBANKS, ALASKA
- A warm hat that covers your ears
- Balaclava, scarft or neck gaiter
- Base layers (no cotton)
- Light insulating layer (fleece or wool)
- Down or synthetic vest
- Heavy insulating layer - primaloft, wool, or down
- Windproof/Water Resistant Shell (must be large enough to accommodate all other layers)
Tip: None of your clothing should be cotton! This is very important! When cotton gets wet, it loses its ability to keep you warm. It also takes a very long time to dry out.
- Long underwear/leggings
- Insulating layer - fleece or wool (fleece pajama pants will work)
- Insulated windproof/waterproof shell (large enough to accommodate all other layers)
Hands & Feet (most important as these are the parts that get cold quickest!
- Wool or wool-blend hiking socks (No cotton - they will get damp and COLD)
- Winter boots that are big enough to allow you to wear two pairs of socks and still have room to wriggle your toes. (This is KEY- in order to stay warm, your toes can NOT be constricted -- otherwise your bloodflow will be impaired and your toes will get cold FAST)
- Light gloves to help harness up the dogs with.
- Windproof gloves or mittens (large enough to accommodate liner gloves- fresh liner gloves only to avoid getting the insides of your gloves wet)
Tip: A couple pairs of cheap .99c knit gloves will work -- you can double them up; and have a spair pair or two to change out of when (not if) the pair you are wearing gets wet from snow.
Tip: Avoid rubber boots. Feet cannot breath inside of them, so socks become damp, and therefore cold, much quicker than in a boot with a wool liner (which helps transport moisture away from the foot).
Tip: The cold weather rating on boots is BS. Your rubber boots will not keep your feet warm at -100F. I don't know how they can get away saying that.
-Hand and toe warmers
Tip: The tubes of worn-out wool socks make great wrist warmers when the foot is cut off!
4. What can I expect during my dog sled tour?
"Rustic Luxury." Our accomodations are simple. We live in a small, unfinished, off-grid timberframe cabin. Our floors are wooden, but clean. We have soft sheepskin rugs to sit on and a big woodstove that warms our house. Outside, we have a cozy campfire area, surrounded by handhewn log benches covered with ultra warm thick reindeer skins. We have an outhouse and a very basic running water system that allows us to wash our hands and dishes (we shower and do laundry in town). Our outhouse is retrofitted and winterized. You will be surprised at how easy and comfortable it is to use, even in winter weather
Our way of living may be outside your day-to-day, but we have your utmost comfort in mind & will do our best to make sure you are as warm and comfortable as possible during your visit! This includes giving you a gear check to make sure you will be suitibly dressed for your adventure. We have expedition-level parkas, overboots, mittens, and handwarmers available for your use at no charge. We also provide you with warming drinks and home-baked snacks, either out on the trail or back in the doglot after your tour.
Your comfort is our priority !
5. What are my chances of seeing the Aurora?
Fairbanks is known for its spectacular aurora due to its location in the middle of the circumpolar aurora band. The aurora is visible in Fairbanks from mid August to mid April (when the skies are dark). There is not a scientifically proven time of month or time of night that is better, but the skies are darkest during the new moon. It is estimated that visitors to Fairbanks who stay a minimum of 3 nights have a 90% chance of seeing the aurora. Due to our location high on a ridge away from the light pollution of Fairbanks, your chances of seeing the aurora are better at Arctic Dog Adventure Co. than in the city. However, the northern lights can be fickle & their appearance is always a delight -- even to those us who were born and raised in Alaska! We never take the aurora for granted & hope all visitors to Alaska during the winter months have the opportunity to see the lights, but it is NOT a guarantee. The best aurora forecast we know of is available through NOAA: https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast. Your chances will improve if the skies are clear, so check the weather forecast as well. Clear skies are usually accompanied by cold weather, so bundle up!
Always dreamed of seeing the lights dance? Increase your chances with a multi-day dog sledding Aurora Safari with Arctic Dog in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.
6. Are your tours suitable for children?
Yes! Especially if the kids love dogs. Keep in mind that longer tours may present more of a challenge for toddlers, as they may not yet have the patience to appreciate the time spent sitting still and appreciating nature, and may have a harder time verbalizing their comfort level. We have done overnights with kids as young as 5 (successfully :) ) but clear & honest communication is key to having warm, happy kids. Depending on your guide's discretion, kids may even be able to drive their own dog team!
7. How do I get to Arctic Dog Adventure Co.?
Public transportation (bus) in Fairbanks is limited to the city center. You must obtain your own transportation in order to come visit us. You can either rent a car, or take a taxi or shuttle bus. YES, you are allowed to drive your rental car to our location.
For rental cars, we reccommend Alaska Auto Rental. Locally owned and operated, but most importantly, their rental cars are outfitted with winter tires. Most of the national brands have lower rates, but rent out 4x4 cars with bald summer tires. 4WD will not help if your tires have no grip!
Taxi -- We recommend Arctic Taxi. Feel free to contact us if you need help coordinating a ride.
Directions to our homestead can be found here -- www.arcticdogco.com/directions
DO NOT USE GPS, unless you are 100% sure you are headed our way via the Steese and Elliot Highways. If you are coming from Fairbanks, the GPS may try and direct you the "short way" to our homestead, via Sheep Creek to Murphy Dome to Old Murphy Dome, a road that peters out at a snowbank as it is unmaintained in the winter. Make sure you are headed to Arctic Dog Adventure Co. from the ELLIOTT HIGHWAY.
Directions to our homestead can be found here -- www.arcticdogco.com/directions
8. Do you have a restroom?
Yes! We have the quintessential Alaskan cabin accessory --- an outhouse! While the thought of using the toilet outside may seem unpleasant or intimidating, let us assure you this is not the case! We have a clean styrofoam seat in our outhouse and unlike ceramic or wood; styrofoam always feels warm when you sit on it. Our outhouse was built for a king, with lots of elbow room, great ventilation and lighting (there's no door), and a beautiful view into the boreal forest. The best thing about having an outhouse is maintaining a connection with the natural environment. Because we have to step outside to use the bathroom, we get to see northern lights displays we never would have otherwise, we know *exactly* how cold it is, or conversely, how high up the midnight sun is, how the hot afternoon sun is affecting the flowers, and if there are any mosquitos lurking about. It is a different perspective on outhouses for sure, but one we have certainly embaced. We also don't have to worry about any pipes freezing during cold snaps. For more of the same, I invite you to read Dave Oleson's musings on the subject. Dave is a bush pilot, musher, and writer who lives by the Hoarfrost River in Canada's Northwest Territories.
Multi-day Tours: When out on the trail, we pee/poop in the forest and practice "leave no trace" principles, meaning we either pack out or bury our waste and pack out or burn our toilet paper. At Aurora Camp, we have an outhouse. If we are at a cabin, there will be an outhouse.
Please shoot us an email if you have any questions regarding our trips!