Text: Frederik Amundsen
Eirik Nilsen is the owner of Holmen Hundesenter and welcomes us one sunny afternoon. We are in Alta in Northern Norway, ready to try dog sledging. As we get out of the car, 63 dogs are eager to meet us.
- They are only allowed to bark when they know it’s time for running, says Nilsen, as he gives us a quick introduction to dog sledging.
Steering the sledge
You choose between tours in the birch forests along the Alta River, or you go up the Altadalen valley to the Finnmarksvidda mountain plateau. There are two persons on each sledge, one standing up and steering, and the other sitting comfortably on reindeer skins in the sledge.
- Look, elk on the right hand side, says the guide in front of us. Fascinating, but the dogs just keep on running.
It is easy to steer, and easy to stop the dogs when you need to, using your feet on the break.
Back at the resort, we gather around the fire place for coffee and cookies while we listen to Eirik talk about the dogs, and the Finnmarksløpet dog race.
Tours and prices
There are different possibilities at Holmen Hundesenter. The short trip is about two hours. You get five dogs and a sledge on your own. You go in a line with the guide up front.
You can also go for the more challenging five-day trip from cabin to cabin in the mountains. You steer the dogs on your own on the mountain plains. This one you have to order in advance.
Price: Short trip NOK 1,100 children half price
When: Every day at 11 am, from 15 December to 15 March
Five-day trip: NOK 15,000 (food and accommodation included)
About the dogs
There are 63 huskys here, and they all look different. Nilsen has bred them to become the most efficient sledge dogs, without caring about their appearance. This is the difference between the Siberian husky and the Alaskan Husky. The Siberian husky is also bred to look good, and does not mix in other kinds of dogs. The Alaskan Husky varies in colour from totally black to totally white, and come in different shapes, and is believed to be more robust and healthy. Nilsen’s dogs have about three per cent bird dog in them.
How to get here
Fly into Alta from Oslo or Tromsø. You will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the resort.
Where to stay
There are different hotels in the city centre and the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta is an experience far from the ordinary.
Alta is the largest town in the county of Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway. Alta has good climatic conditions, with little precipitation, pleasant winters and relatively warm summers. During winter nights, you can often see the northern lights dancing across the skies. The blue season in Alta lasts from November to January, after which the days get gradually longer. May to August have midnight sun and 24 hours of daylight.
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