Anyone who has encountered a true Northern winter season will tell you it is typically like a deep freeze. There are days you may not want to even leave your house because it’s -40—without the wind-chill! Soon you start to realize that the residents in northern communities, especially Fort McMurray, deal with winter differently. First there are the snow birds or migrators. They leave with the Canada geese and follow them down South in the fall and come back when the temperatures are above zero. Then you have the residents that stick it out. Some days they curse Mother Nature and the blistering cold, other days are not too bad. They go about their lives and day to day routines. Lastly you have the people that embrace the cold, snow and everything about winter, because it is their favorite season. You may refer to these people as crazy, mentally unstable, or insane, all of which I’ve been called!
As a born and raised Fort McMurray resident, I quickly learned to accept the cold snowy weather and find different things to do. That is one of the many reasons I own 25 Alaskan Huskies. I train and race sled dogs in various competitions anywhere from Montana to Alaska every year. It all started about 14 years ago, I thought it was a good idea to hook up my little brother to a GT snow racer and get him to pull me around the neighborhood. It worked out well, until my mother found out what I was up to and that was the end of that! Shortly after I taught our German Shepherd, Cheyenne, to pull me around and I was hooked!
In 2011, I finally got my first sled dog and a real dog sled. It wasn’t too long before I had my own team and entered my first race here in Fort McMurray, the 3 Forts Sled Dog Race that was part of the 2011 Syncrude Regional WinterPLAY Carnival. The race route was 176 miles from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan on the Athabasca River. Since then I have competed in several different races, some were quite easy and others were really difficult. There are periods of time where I spend three or four nights alone in the wilderness with just my dogs. Once you go winter camping once, you quickly learn what NOT to forget for the next time.
A lot of people ask me the same question: “Why do you love winter so much?” My response is always the same: I spend almost every day outside in the winter, but I am spending the days with my dogs. We explore different parts of North American by dog sled, places most people haven’t even seen before. At night you are surrounded by the Northern Lights, and when you are out in the woods away from the city lights the show is spectacular. You don’t have to have a team of huskies to enjoy the winter months, there are a lot of other great things to do! So get out of the house and find something you enjoy doing, it will make the winter season feel shorter and a lot more fun!