Alaska.The Last Frontier A really, really big frontier at that. Larger than Texas, California and Montana combined, Alaska holds many distinctions when it comes to size. Many people know that Alaska is the largest state, that it has more miles of coastline than any other state and that it is home to the biggest national park in the United States. But, there is so much more to the 49th state than those superlatives. For instance, did you know that Alaska is home to somewhere around 100,000 glaciers of which only about 600 have been named? Comprising almost 5% of the state’s total area, glaciers are a huge part of Alaska and its culture and heritage. As such, one of the best ways to experience Alaska is by exploring these amazing ice creations up close and few methods are more exciting and intense than mushing across one of these frozen ice fields behind a pack of energetic, barking sled dogs.

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Background of Dog Sledding

For thousands of years, humans have used dogs to help propel themselves over snow and ice in search of game, new lands and adventure. Scientists and archaeologists believe that dog sleds originated in Siberia and northern Canada and were originally used by the people in those cultures to pull heavy loads much like they do today. But, that does not mean that dog sledding has not progressed during that interim. Although dog sledding began in those far reaches of the Asian and North American continent, it was not long before this new invention began to take hold in other places farther south and even across the globe. Military forces in Europe found that dog sleds could often be used in place of equines due to their tolerance and adaption for cold weather compounded by the fact that canines were much less expensive to own and maintain than horses. As is often the case with military adaptation of new technology, adventurers began to use dog sleds as well in their pursuits. People even began to replace the skis on the sleds with wheels so that the dog sleds could be used year round and on a wider variety of surfaces!

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Historic feats

The history of dog sledding involves much more than just transportation and tourism. Dog sleds have been involved in some of the most amazing expeditions recorded in the history books. For instance, Roald Amundsen famously used the aforementioned Greenland Dogs to pull his sleds in his successful quest to become the first person to reach the South Pole. Almost 75 years after Amundsen’s astonishing feat, Will Steger used a mixed breed of Siberian Husky, Greenland Eskimo dog and Timber Wolf to help lead the first fully unsupported excursion to the much more difficult to access North Pole. Finally, no conversation about historic feats and mushing would be complete without touching on the topic of the Iditarod. Without question, the most famous dog sled race in the world, the Iditarod is an annual event where teams of 12-14 dogs compete to complete the arduous journey from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska with the winners routinely taking just over a week to traverse the 900+ mile race course.

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Take a glacier dog sled across a glacier

Now that you know a little more about Alaska and the background of dog sledding, it is time to have some classic Last Frontier fun! When you travel to Alaska, one of the most memorable moments one can have is to explore a glacier and there are few options more fitting for such an adventure than mushing along with a friendly pack of Huskies or Malamutes. To truly and literally elevate your Alaskan experience, we recommend combining your dogsled glacier tour with a helicopter flight so you can have a bird’s eye view to appreciate the vastness and wonder of the area you will explore with the help of your canine companions. EXP Journeys partners with top notch tour providers who live and breathe the Alaskan dog sledding life and there is a good chance that your sled dogs or guide may even be Iditarod veterans! Hearing stories firsthand from an Iditarod racer while mushing along behind the very dogs used in that storied race is an Alaskan memory you will not soon forget.

Although you can take a dog sled ride anytime of the year in Alaska, the best time for a helicopter glacier tour is between early May and September when longer days and warmer temperatures ensure optimal flight conditions. Your glacier helicopter tour begins at a beautiful lodge where you will climb aboard a state of the art helicopter to begin your flight. As you soar over the interior en route to your dogsledding location, you will be amazed at the sheer wonder of majestic Alaskan landmarks such as Lake George and the Chugach Mountains which seem to rise up to greet you. After your sightseeing flight, your helicopter will descend to rendezvous with your sled dog team who will be awaiting you on a snowfield perched on an actual glacier! Once on the ground, you and your travel companions can enjoy the thrill of mushing your own sled or simply sit back and relax while your driver shows you all the sights to behold in this otherworldly venue full of birch and spruce forests. After your sled ride, you can meet and mingle with your newfound furry friends for a photographic opportunity you will cherish for years to come. The adventure is not quite over yet though! Soon, you will again board your helicopter for a short flight down to the lower part of the glacier where your pilot and guide will show you around the glacial crevasses, aquamarine glacier melt pools and other spectacular features that make this area such a special place to visit.

Sledding across snow and ice is the truest form of the style, but eager travelers do not have to limit themselves to winter or extreme longitudes to enjoy this unique way to experience Alaska. Many cultures and companies use wheeled carts instead of sleds to take full advantage of dog powered transportation and adventure all year round and these options are available to you as you travel to Alaska as well.

Let’s Mush

Today, Alaska is home to one of the most vibrant dog sledding communities in the world. Let EXP Journeys craft an amazing glacier exploration tour where you can learn more about and experience this amazing way of life in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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