Our 5-night "Wintergreen Classics" includes complete training and gear outfitting, 1st & last nights in lodges, 4 days/3 nights of guided wilderness travel & winter camping, generally 6 participants with 2 guides per group
On these entry-level winter skills programs, you'll enjoy your first evening & morning at the lodge receiving hands-on training in winter camping and travel skills, including dog care & harnessing, dogsledding, back-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter ecology, and cold weather comfort and safety. Then you'll embark on a 4-day, 3-night guided wilderness dogsled trek.
You'll travel by dogteam each day (with skiing & snowshoeing as optional campsite activities) and enjoy campfire chats with your guides and group each evening. You'll camp in our Himalayan Hotel sleeping tents (or try an "igloo"!), Siberian Chalet cooking tent, and our cozy Antarctic sleeping bags and strata-rest pads ("a toasty sleep at any temp!") We'll celebrate the trip with a festive final evening back at the lodge.
No experience or gear needed. Lots of learning & lots of fun! A "hands-on" experience during which you'll have a chance to try it all: harnessing & driving dogteams, setting camp, fire building, outdoor cookery, building snow shelters and more. Open to anyone in good fitness (singles, pairs, groups), including families with kids 8 and older. Rental clothing and boots available. These are the trips that launched Wintergreen back in 1987 and they've remained a favorite of guests and staff alike ever since.
Last year, half of these trips were booked by families, schools or clubs for their own private trip. Of the other guests, half were couples, 20% were pairs of friends or family members and 10% were singles. Ages ranged 8-76. About 20% had dogsledded before (generally on our lodge-to-lodge trips), about half had never been camping before (summer or winter) and a few had never been in snow before!
Group & Guides:
Each of our "Classics" is facilitated by 2 Wintergreen guides plus support staff . Each trip accommodates one or two groups of 6 persons each. If there are two groups, training sessions are presented jointly at the lodge but on the trail the groups and their guides travel and camp separately. Generally, three freight sleds are provided for each group of 6. These large sleds each accommodate two drivers, who stand side-by-side on the back of the sled. Participants drive the sleds while the guides ski along nearby to assist as needed.
Sample Itinerary (may vary with trip dates)
DAY 1: Arrive in Ely mid to late afternoon by car or airport taxi shuttle. Stop at rental store for any rental clothing needs, continue to lodge for check-in and site tour. Meet your guides & dogs. Welcoming dinner at 6 pm followed by clothing check, equipment outfitting & trip orientation session. Topics include winter dress & layering systems, cold weather safety, nutrition & hydration, winter sleeping systems and comfort tips.
DAY 2: Kennel care. Breakfast. Full-group seminar on sledding, dog handling & harnessing. Then small group hands-on field rotations involving instruction and practice in back-country winter travel and camping skills. Extended lunch break/skills review in lodge. The big moment arrives: Load sleds and launch the dogteams! Dogsled till late afternoon and select a campsite. Learn how to set up camp. Gather firewood, feed & water dogs. Campfire dinner, evening stories and skills review. Enjoy the night sky and watch for northern lights. Sleep in tents. Bid the dogs goodnight as they bed down nearby.
DAY 3: Dog care & feeding. Campfire coffee & breakfast. Discuss route plan and learn about minimum impact practices. Safety review. Break camp. Load sleds and launch. Midday trailside lunch. Travel by dogteam till mid-afternoon with various stops for snacks/beverage, photos, skills tips and winter ecology info. Set camp at a scenic site. Dinner. Campfire stories and info about winter ecology, northwoods wildlife and native American lore.
DAY 4: Dog care. Campfire coffee & breakfast. Discuss route plan. Decide upon "circle route" or "base camp" option. If "circle route" option, then break camp, travel till mid-afternoon. Set camp early to allow time for snow shelter construction, skiing, snowshoeing and 'ski-jouring' excursions or other optional activities. Dinner & campfire stories. If "base camp" option, leave tents & camp set up to allow for a full of day of optional activities listed above as well as half-day dogsled excursion with empty sleds. Dinner & campfire stories. Sleep in tents or try snow shelters.
DAY 5: Dog care. Campfire coffee & breakfast. Break camp, load & launch to sled back towards the lodge. Arrive mid-afternoon. Treat & water your dogs. Snack break, showers and/or Finnish-style sauna (with optional roll in the snow or dip through the ice hole!) Celebration dinner. Optional evening activities: van shuttle to Ely's International Wolf Center for their Saturday evening "What's for Dinner?" program to observe the wolves feeding OR on some trips Arctic adventure stories with Wintergreen director Paul Schurke.
DAY 6: Optional kennel care. "Bon voyage" breakfast buffet. Trip de-brief chat and "Mushers Graduation" event, kennel visit to bid your dogs adieu. Check-out mid to late morning (or earlier if your travel plans require). If you weren't able to visit Ely's International Wolf Center (www.wolf.org) or North American Bear Center (www.bear.org) during their winter hours (Fri/Sat 10-5) before your dogsled trip, we can sometimes arrange a special visit to the wolf viewing area or bear exhibits on your check-out day.
- Freight sleds & dogteams
- North Face Himalayan Hotel or other dome sleeping tents (for 1-3 people each)
- Siberian Chalet cook tent (for entire group to gather in heated comfort if needed for meals & chats)
- Coleman stoves, cook kit, misc. camp gear, Thermoses and water bottles
- Wiggys Antarctic sleeping bags
- RidgeRest foam camping mattresses
- Inner Thermax sleeping bag liner and outer Ultrex "bivvy sack" bag cover
- Back-country metal-edged skis with Berwyn bindings and poles (for your optional use around camp if you choose)
- Sherpa snowshoes (optional)
- Sled bags for packing personal gear
- Cell phone, map kit, trail radios, first aid gear
Your personal gear needs (detailed checklist will be provided upon registration):
- Winter boots with removable liner (available for rent at Wintergreen)
- Snow pants & hooded shell jacket (available for rent or discount purchase at Wintergreen)
- Insulating pants & tops (available for rent or discount purchase at Wintergreen)
- Long johns, mittens, hat, socks (available for discount purchase at Wintergreen)
- Headlamp, toiletries, journal, camera, daypack or fanny pack, etc.
Sample Trail Menu
Campfire Breakfast: Red River porridge or rice pudding and/or eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, cinnamon pitas, fruit roll-ups, hot beverages (including gourmet coffee!)
Trail Lunch: Cup o' soup, pocket bread sandwiches, sausage stix, string cheese, energy bars, dry fruit, candies & chocolates, nuts and various kinds of trail mix
Dinners: Our guides take great pride in their campfire dinners with such menus as cheese quesadillas, beef fajitas, sweet-sour chicken stir fry; linguini & Swedish meatballs; Oriental veggies & rice with sautéed shrimp; pan pizzas, Dutch-oven cakes & fresh baked breads, "secret desserts" (an optional Wintergreen tradition in which participants are invited to bring a treat to share)
NOTE: We happily accommodate vegetarian, vegan and or other dietary preferences