Tell me about dogsledding
Dogsled trips are the unique winter vacation alternative which, unlike skiing or snowmobiling, require no special skills or fitness and are suitable for all ages -- from 5-85. Our dogsled vacation packages feature great fun, great food, great lodging and the extraordinary Wintergreen team: the best guides in the Northwoods. But our Eskimo sled dogs steal the show every time -- they're friendly, handsome and love to pull. Click here to meet our dogs.
Tell me about Wintergreen
Now in our 33rd year, we're the oldest, most experienced recreational dog sledding center and the nation's only lodge devoted exclusively to dogsledding. We've been cited by National Geographic as the best in the business and ranked by Outside Magazine as one of the "Top 10" small, innovative outdoor companies of the past quarter century. Paul Schurke, Wintergreen's founder & director, is a renowned author and educator who has received the Explorers Club award and Outside's "Adventurer of the Year" award. Our dogsled guides --the most experienced in the business-- have been with us for many years. While dogsledding may be a sideline for other adventures vacation companies, at Wintergreen it's all we do and we do it very well! Click here to learn more about how we came to be.
Tell me about Ely, Minnesota
Ely is considered the "Sled Dog Capitol of the U.S." and is located in the beautiful US-Canada Boundary Waters Wilderness. National Geographic ranked this area among the world's Top 50 "must see" destinations, "Good Morning America" cited Ely among the nation's Top 10 adventure areas and CBS journalist Charles Kuralt called Ely his "#1" vacation place. The area's gentle terrain, sheltered forests, stunning scenery and consistent winter snow cover make it ideal for dogsledding. For more info: http://www.ely.org/
How do I get to Ely, Minnesota?
Ely is served by an excellent winter highway system. Most of our guests from the Midwest opt to drive (we're 4 hours from Minneapolis, 12 hours from Chicago -- none of our guests have ever been delayed by road closures). We also have excellent air service on Northwest Airlines via regional airports in Duluth and Hibbing and a taxi shuttle to Wintergreen. Round-trip airfares from many areas of the country are less than $500. Click here for more travel info and a road map.
Will I stay warm in Ely, Minnesota?
Yes! No one knows winter clothing & comfort better than Wintergreen. In fact, we design and produce our own line of top quality winter gear through Wintergreen Northern Wear. We'll help ensure that you bring exactly what you need. Apparel items you don't have, including warm parkas and snow boots, can be rented or purchased at a discount through Wintergreen Northern Wear. Click here to view our suggested clothing list.
Tell me about the Wintergreen lodging
The lodges we use, including our own, are in beautiful northwoods settings and feature private bedrooms, fireplaces, full baths, saunas, ski & snowshoe trails. Single and king bed options as desired are available on most trips and full linens blankets, comforters, towels are of course provided. Arrangements are made to shuttle guest luggage and vehicles between lodges as needed. After three decades of planning accommodations and food for our guests, we think we've found the perfect balance: lodging loaded with character yet conscious of comfort, meals that satisfy your body's hard-earned appetite while stimulating your imagination And Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, perched on pine-studded peninsula of White Iron Lake, adjoins a beautiful wilderness area with dozens of miles of varied dogsled trails used almost exclusively by our guests. Click here for more info about the lodging.
How about the Wintergreen food?
Among the key things that makes Wintergreen so special is our great meal service. We know exactly what our guests want after an invigorating day of dogsledding -- an interesting, tasteful meal lovingly prepared with fresh top-quality ingredients...and plenty of it! Meals are served family-style and guests & guides dine together. We are more than happy to accommodate any dietary restrictions and special requests (and be sure to let us know if your trip falls on a birthday or other event that calls for a special dessert!) Although wine is not served, guests are welcome to bring their own. An indoor lunch will be served on your first dogsledding day. The other days include a trailside campfire lunch with soup, grilled sandwich and various snacks served by your guides. And while your guides take great pride in being educators, entertainers and athletes, they are also great cooks! Breakfast is their chance to shine and they prepare a bountiful meal every morning with fresh fruits, hot entrees & baked items, juices, yogurts, cereals, breads, local jams and great coffee. Click here for more info about the meals.
What's included in the dogsled package price?
Everything -- meals, lodging, guides, dogteams, outfitting, trail fees & taxes (PLUS tickets to Ely's International Wolf Center where you can observe a wolf pack in a woodland enclosure). Our trips are a great value for your vacation dollar. In fact, SmarterTravel.com ranks us among the 10 Best Adventure Travel Bargains.
Which dogsled trip should I choose?
We offer both Lodge-based Dogsled Vacations and the more adventurous Dogsled Camping Trips. For a 4-night Lodge-based trip, choose among our "GOOD," "BETTER" and "BEST" options. Our Standard trips include around 8 guests and feature family-style meals, private bedrooms and some use of shared bathrooms. Deluxe trips generally include 6 guests and feature fine dining and private bathrooms. Our newly upgraded "Star of the North" trips involve 2 pairs of guests and feature gourmet meals plus 4 nights in private lakeshore cabin. The shorter 3-night Lodge-based Dogsled Trips are specially discounted for family groups. Our dogsled camping trips include the intro-level 5-night "Classics" and a variety of advanced trips. Click here for our "Choosing your Trip" comparison chart.
What's the best time to come to Wintergreen for a dogsledding trip?
Ely, Minnesota, lies within the "Ontario Snow Powder Belt" and has good snow December through March. Daytime highs average around 20 degrees December through February and rise closer to 30 degrees in March. While January weather tends to be our colder, it's also the clearest. But each of these months offers great sledding so the best time to come is whatever works best for you.
How does the dogsledding work?
With instruction and assistance from our guides, you'll actually be driving a team of our dogs on beautiful northwoods trails each day. The platforms on the back of our sleds allow one or two persons to control the sled with voice commands, a brake, shifting their balance and an occasional pedal kick. It's easy and fun to learn. On the uphills, it requires effort similar to bicycling as you "pedal kick" a bit to assist the dogs, and around corners it's a bit like sailing as you lean to balance the sled. But most of the time you're just gliding effortlessly along, mesmerized by the scenery and the snow clicking off the paws of your team as they pull you along. Our unique extra-wide sleds (designed & made at Wintergreen) allow two guests to stand side-by-side on a stable platform and drive the sled together. New mushers find this is a far more comfortable and confident way to learn dogsledding than by having to balance on the narrow runners of a conventional racing sled and try to control it by themselves. Our expert guides will accompany you on skis to help out as needed
How far will we dogsled each day?
Depending upon snow conditions, Wintergreen's teams of Canadian Eskimo freight dogs travel at 4 to 8 miles per hour. But we make many stops enroute at sites of scenic interest and so the quantity of miles covered each day on a Wintergreen trip --which varies greatly depending upon route selection and group interests-- is less important to us than the quality of the experience that we can provide for you. Most days were outside from mid-morning to late afternoon but shorter or longer dogsledding days can often be arranged if you prefer.
Tell me about your other dogsled guests.
About 20% of our guests come on their own, the rest with friends or family. 60% are women, 35% are returning customers. The average age is 42 though ranged last year from 6 to 78. Each group includes 4 to 8 guests plus 2 or 3 guides, depending upon the type of trip. You'll enjoy the fun-loving folks you'll meet on these trips. The evenings are very social with fireside chats, stories by Wintergreen guides or films on our arctic expeditions. Click here to read what our guests have to say about their Wintergreen experience.
Tell me about your sled dogs.
Wintergreen has the world's largest working kennel of pure-bred Canadian Inuit dogs. The original breed of the high arctic, these strikingly handsome, strong and friendly dogs truly live to pull. Their tough build is well suited for the backcountry but they can still be comfortably handled by most beginners. Our dogs are bred, raised and trained specifically for our guests. They are incredible animals whose passion for what they do is infectious with everyone they meet. Our dogs are loved and cared for in a way that makes them part of our family --not just draft animals-- and their remarkable behavior demonstrates this every day. What will impress you most is their spirit. They are happiest in their traces, tug lines tight, leaning into their harnesses. And as the trip unfolds, you come to know each dog's personality -- the way Blue leans to the left when he pulls, the impatient way Orion looks back at you whenever the sled stops, the way Barnum and Bailey nuzzle each other at the midday lunch break.
How much contact will I have with the sled dogs?
As much as you like! Wintergreen provides a complete "hands on" experience. With instruction and training by our guides, you'll not only will be driving your own dog team, but you're also welcome to help harness, feed and care for your dogs. (You just can't take them home with you!)
Tell me about your dogsledding staff.
Our "Wintergreen Team" is by far the best in the business. It includes founder/director Paul Schurke, our dogsled guides, our kitchen and housekeeping staff (and of course our "4-legged" kennel staff!). Our guides are not only superb skills instructors with wilderness safety and first aid training, but are also gifted naturalists and educators who enjoy sharing northwoods lore with our guests. Paul Schurke's schedule allows him to spend time with most Wintergreen groups and he is the lead instructor on most of the advanced trips.
Can I really dogsled?
Yes you can! People ages 6-86 have enjoyed our trips. Many have no prior winter experience -- some have never even seen snow! We specialize in working with complete beginners, even people who've spent little time with dogs and who dislike cold weather. Our Lodge-to-Lodge trips are suitable even for persons who are only minimally fit while our camping trips are better suited for persons with fair to good fitness. Our registration info will help you gauge your fitness.
How do I get more information on these dogsledding trips?
How do I make a dogsledding trip reservation?
Click here to register by phone, fax, mail, or email. Registration involves a $100/person deposit with balance due 8 weeks before your trip. Youth discounts: ages 5-11 get $200 off , 12-17 get $100 off. New adult guests get $100 off with our "Summer Sign-Up Discount" until Sept 1 by registering with full payment. Returning guests get $150 off until Sept 1 by registering with full payment OR $100 off any trip, any time without full payment (Welcome back alumni!). Private groups of 6 or more can arrange their own custom, discounted trip. Discounts are not cumulative but the largest discount will apply. All payments including deposits are fully refundable till Oct 1. Payments minus the $100 deposit are refundable after October 1 & until 2 months before your trip. Within 2 months of your trip, payments are nonrefundable but are transferable to another trip pending availability.