Friday, April 25, 2003

Canada - world’s winter adventure destination!

This past month I was fortunate to be invited to be a part of a winter adventure travel workshop in Whitehorse. I had never been to the Yukon and was excited to get a chance to head to the far northwest of Canada.

The workshop, called Winter Change, brought together 80 tourism professionals from all across Canada to test and refine a process to support the development of new and innovative winter tour products. We were given the task of creating new Canadian winter products that would be brought to market in 2007 and tweaked and polished in time for the 2010 winter Olympic Games in Vancouver/ Whistler. It was wonderful to interact with winter professionals from other parts of Canada and with people who work in both private and public sector. We were challenged to look and change our existing business paradigm and look at the future with a new perspective.

Our specific work group created innovative and wild winter products including scuba diving beneath the ice and an urban Canadian winter experience exhibit that would offer city dwellers a chance to step into winter and see, smell and touch a Canadian winter. It was motivating to be among passionate winter enthusiasts and we all came away with the realization that Canada is a world leader when it comes to winter adventure product and we need to be more proud of it!!!

Highlights included: seeing the northern lights every night, a snowmobile trip out to High Lake with Mark from Up North Adventures. The Yukon’s big valleys are awesome. Another day - I took a drive through the White pass and down to Skagway Alaska with Del Rollo from Jackson-Triggs and Richard from Timmins. Del knows all things about wine and has got some great culinary tourism packages in Niagara. Richard owns the Cedar Meadows Resort in Timmins with a virtual game farm out the back including Moose, Caribou.
Our day trip was fantastic. It was amazing to see the change in climate as we drove through the pass and down to the ocean. Here are a few shots.

I highly recommend a Yukon winter trip to anyone who has a big taste for adventure. My 6 days were a just a sample and I plan on returning for a three week trip to the St Elias range in the next few years.

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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Is Algonquin Park the Dog sled capital of Canada –?

While in Canada’s Yukon Territory recently, it was interesting to talk to the dog sled mushers about their business and where/ how their customers come from. Whitehorse is not close to any other major urban centre. People heading for a Yukon ( or Alaska ) sled dog trip fly on at least two flights and on average over 5000 km to get to the start of the trip. There is even a direct winter flight to Whitehorse all the way from Frankfurt Germany! With expensive flight costs, most of the dog sled businesses cater to high end clientele and take very few customers each winter. Racing is really the big draw with many of the mushers in the Yukon offering customers a chance to help train dogs that are getting in shape for the Yukon Quest- the longest and most grueling dog sled race in the world. 3 of the mushers I spoke to take less than 25 customers each winter.

My conversations with these dog sled operators made me start thinking that while Yukon maybe the home of Dogsled racing in Canada, Algonquin Park maybe Canada’s number one choice for people to experience “authentic” dog sledding.

Algonquin Park is within a 10 hour drive of over 25 million people and home to at least 8 dog sled operators around the Park that I am aware of. Collectively the operators house 600 dogs and on average 175 people are probably dog sledding every day in/ around Algonquin. I believe this would make Algonquin the dog sled capital of Canada!

Here at Voyageur Quest, we work with four Algonquin Park dog sled mushers and offer several different types of dog sled trips including lodge based multi adventures and dog expeditions with heated wall tent camping.

I stress “authentic dog sledding to differentiate from some hotels and/or resorts that are offering dog sled “rides” of 20 minutes. For those of you considering a dog sled experience, I highly recommend you choose an authentic dog sled experience vs. a ride.
During an authentic experience, you will receive a thorough orientation including instruction in how to drive a team, harness, hook up, and dog commands. Then you will head to the yard and hook up/ harness your team. After this two hour hands on process will you be ready to mush. The actual mush typically runs for about 3 – 4 hours and will cover around 20km.

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