I was involved in sled-dog racing from about 1970 until the present time … I’ve finished 25 1,000-mile races. It’s something I really enjoy — it was kind of a hobby and it’s a vocation now. It gradually progressed that way. I used to be an electrician; now I’m retired and I do sled-dog (tours) only.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
I’m semi-retired from racing. I don’t do 1,000-mile races anymore, just 100- or 200-mile races, just easy stuff. To support the kennel I started giving rides and it gradually went from there. Now I have a sled-dog school (where people can) learn how to drive dogs. We have beautiful trails here all winter long — it’s a really good opportunity for people to experience the real Alaska.
What’s the season for dog-sledding?
We usually have snow by Oct. 15 and it goes until about April 10. The summer season is basically kennel tours and rides on a wheeled cart.
A lot of people just come for rides, and I usually pick them up at Fairbanks and bring them here. (They can) hold the puppies and I introduce them to some of my dogs. Then we go for a ride for about 50 minutes to an hour, and then they come into the house and we have coffee and tea. If they just come for a ride they’re here about two-and-a-half hours. If they come to the mushing school where they actually want to run the dogs … I give them lessons on how to ride the sled, how to handle the dogs, how to put the harnesses on. Then we do a couple of small practice runs where they go out with me. … By the end of the day they actually take their own team out by themselves. They usually do at least one day — people who are very serious usually book for a week. With seven days, each day we go a little bit further and by the end of the week we go for probably a 50-mile run.
Do you have a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
It depends on how outdoorsy they are. I build the tour around what they’re comfortable with; I don’t push anybody. I’m a pretty relaxed guy.
What’s the best part of your job?
I really love being out there, out in the wilderness with the dogs. It’s really quiet; there’s no motor involved at all. Because it’s quiet we quite often see animals, moose and sometimes wolves. I just really enjoy being out there with the dogs.
I’ve been mushing dogs for 40 years; I’ve had every kind of experience you can think of — broken ribs — but I’ve had some pretty unusual experiences with animals. Moose don’t know the difference between a dog team and a pack of wolves, so several times I’ve had a moose charge my team.
Ever had any odd requests from clients?
Sometimes they call in the summertime and want to have a sled ride on the snow.
Any tips for people interested in booking a sled-dog tour, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
Go with somebody (who has) experience. A lot of people get into sled-dog rides and they’ve only had dogs for a little while (but) a lot could go wrong. It can be a little bit dangerous.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
You have to like people. I like people and I like showing people my dogs. If they like dogs, I’ll probably like them.