Dog Sledding – Beaverton, ON

“Jamie, quick: What are your favourite movies?”

“Easy – Fight Club and Winnie the Pooh”

“That’s messed up. What’s third?”

“Obviously Iron Will”

For those of you uninitiated with the beauty and power of Iron Will – it’s the captivating and inspirational story of Will Stonemen – a son who enters a dogsled race to keep his recently widowed mother from selling the family farm. It throws Prefontaine, Seabiscuit and Days of Thunder to the ground and gives them all big snowjobs. It’s also 92% responsible for my insane level of excitement when I got the opportunity to go try Dog Sledding as part of the Cannington Dog Sled Race and Festival.

With the Gymineer-mobile packed, we jumped in and headed fifty minutes north to Beaverton. We pulled up beside a lake where a few hundred ice-fishing huts dominated the horizon.

A small sampling of a horizon that knows when it's been dominated

As we walked out onto the frozen water, Paul unknowingly began to creak open Pandora’s Box with this seemingly innocent question:

“So guys, what lake are we on, anyways?”

The debate would rage for hours, and much blood was spilled. “Scugog” one of us would answer matter-of-factly, only to be retorted with a sharp “Simcoe, you idiot.” We were all too proud to ask any outsiders.

It was there on Lake Scugog or Simcoe that we met the day’s celebrity encounter: the Jamaican Dogsled team. Spending most of their year training dryland in Jamaica, they had recently traveled to the Great White North (Lake Scugog or Simcoe) to partake in the Cannington Race. As their training methods were explained, all I could picture was John Candy and wooden bobsleds in my head. But much like their bobsledding brethren, the Jamaicans are a serious threat in the winter events, and they were eagerly after their share of the $10,000 purse.

We were attending a media day prior to the race, and when the calls came for tv crews and personalities to climb on board a sled, my hand shot up.

The Jamaican dogs had some size to them, and are a bit aggressive for first timers, so we were treated to a ride with some recreational dogs, each taking us out for a spin to the middle of the lake.

As we took off, with the musher yelling behind me, I tried to stabilize the camera as I suddenly flashbacked to my snowmobiling days – mostly on account of the eye-squishing combination of Canadian winters, open space, and fast movement. I don’t know if you’ve been on a frozen lake lately, but it gets really, really cold.

I eventually came to terms with the weather, and my focus then shifted to the amazing reaction the dogs have to each of the musher’s commands. From a full 180 degree pivot to “Run to the truck and stop”, these dogs understood english better than anyone I’ve ever encountered on a customer service help line.

My eyes eventually thawed, and my stomach was eventually filled with warm buffalo stew thanks to our kind hosts. If you’re looking to make the most of a Canadian winter, this is a pretty kick ass way to do it.

Also a special thanks to Mary G and the team at Engage for the editing on this video.