Alaska is known for its Iditarod, and visitors often want to connect with this famous sled dog race during their travels. Given that most visitors come in the summer, this poses a bit of a challenge: there is no snow for sledding through much of Alaska in the summer months. Many sled dog kennels offer an alternative to snow sledding in the summer in which participants ride wheeled sleds on dirt trails. However, there is an option for those who want a snow experience in the summer: sledding on a glacier. Our family’s favorite excursion of our two-week trip in Alaska was a tour that took us in a brief helicopter ride up to a glacier, where we had the chance to spend time with sled dogs and sled dog puppies as well as sledding.
The adventure starts at the hangar in Girdwood, where participants are provided with waterproof pants, jacket, over-boots, as well as gloves and even sunglasses if needed. While guests should come prepared with layers, these extra outer layers are great for battling the elements on the glacier. Next, after a briefing about helicopter safety, groups of three are swept up and over a pass to Punchbowl Glacier on a 7 minute trip. As you approach, the dogs are going wild barking and jumping, excited to get to do their run.
There’s plenty of time for getting to know the dogs, including a number of different breeds. You may be surprised that they don’t all fit that stereotypical picture of a Siberian Husky. Dog lovers will be delighted to wander from dog to dog, learning their different personalities and getting plenty of pets and cuddles in. And don’t forget the pictures… I’m sure that we snapped at least 200 pictures just during this part of the trip alone!
Once everyone has shuttled over to the camp and had time with the dogs, the mushers provide important information about riding the sled. I was surprised to learn that even our eight-year-old got to independently ride! Three at a time, participants get to ride on their own sled, with the dogs following a snowmobile. But riders don’t just sit back and relax, they’ve got to hang on tight, steer a bit, and brake when the excited dogs get moving too fast. During the downtime as others are racing, guests can enjoy the spectacle or continue hanging out with their favorite dog. Towards the end of the time up on the glacier, out come the puppies and more amazing photo and cuddle ops!
About an hour and a half later, helicopters swoop back in to take guests back to the valley and while they can take all the pictures and memories with you… no sneaking a pup back home!