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Today, Norm Goldman Editor of Sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guest, Bergsvein Wongraven.  Bergsvein lives in Sweden with his wife Kim and he is a self-educated musher and guide. They are also owners of Husky Holiday.

 








Good day Bergsvein and thank you for participating in our interview.

 

 

Norm:

 

What is a musher? How did you become interested in mushing?

 

Bergsvein:

 

A Musher is the person on a dog sled who remains standing while he controls a team of dogs pulling the sled. He is in reality the dog driver. The art of driving is called mushing.

 

I grew up in a tiny mountains village in North Norway where there was a great deal of snow. While I was cross-country skiing, I always dreamed of cruising across lakes and over mountains with a dog pulling me.

 

I started experiencing the skijoring (skiing while being pulled by a dog) more than 30 years ago, but the actual sled driving was something I took up much later. This was due to the fact that I had acquired too many dogs to be able to control them on skis. When the mushing gets into your blood you are addicted!

 

A musher can drive any type of dog and almost any dog will pull the sled, but the most frequently used sled- dog is the Alaskan Husky. However, the polar breeds such as Malamutes, Eskimo dogs and the Siberian Huskies are also popular mushing dogs.

 

Norm:

 

What are dog sledding safaris and could you give our readers a brief description of the ones you offer? Where do they take place in Sweden and how long does a typical safari last?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Dog sledding safaris are the trips where we challenge our own and our dogs' physical and mental endurance with long daily trips that includes outdoor camping spread over 3-10 nights. We eventually return to our homestead (farm house) proud and in high spirits.

 

Usually we associate a safari with Africa however our challenging Mushing Survival and Minitarod are examples of true meetings with the elements.

 

The region of  Jämtland in Sweden offers, with its vast woodlands, gentle hills, mountains and numerous ice covered lakes, excellent opportunities for great outdoor and wild life experiences.

 

There is an initial training period from our lodge and then we load up the necessary gear for ourselves and the huskies in order to venture out on a several day safari trip, where we rely on our dogs, our equipment and ourselves.

 

The daily rides depend entirely on weather conditions and generally a typical steady tempo day along the marked snowmobile will involve a 30 mile run. A group of a maximum of 8 persons, including guides, set up, before dark every day, a tent and a teepee camp. Everyone shares the work which involves the feeding and taking care of dogs and people. There is a bonding experience after a hard but rewarding day when we sit together in the teepee around a light-smoky fire to keep us warm. Our journey continues after breaking camp in the morning- something that occurs every day until we return home. Our participants have described these safaris in a several ways, and one of our guests even called it "character building."

 

Norm

 

If you had to choose the most romantic and unique of your sledding safaris, which ones would you choose and why?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Our Minisafari Husky Special is 3 days of learning all about dogs and driving your own team. There is an opportunity every day to try other winter activities such as cross country skiing, tobogganing, snow shooing, where couples enjoy playing in the snow, while returning to the warmth of a house every night.

 

On the fourth day we pack our sleds and drive out on an overnight tour. After taking care of your dog team, participants enjoy many hours under the stars watching out for northern lights and simply enjoying the silence.  Could this be why a number of honeymooners have chosen exactly this trip?

 

 

Norm:

 

What equipment and clothing must one have before embarking on one of these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

We recommend our guests bring warm, long underwear, preferably several layers, as well as gloves, hats and one or more sweaters. As with a number of our colleagues, Husky Holiday does supply complete sets of warm winter clothing- insulated coveralls and Canadian boots that withstand the lowest temperatures. You can find a clothing and equipment list on our homepage. We also send out an individual information package prior to arrival, covering what we suggest people should bring along.

 

Norm:

 

What can one expect by way of lodging and food when participating in one of these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Our homestead (farmhouse) has 4 guest rooms, 2 with bathrooms, 2 sharing a bath. The rooms are pleasantly decorated and furnished, with good ventilation and heating.  Since we only accept very small groups, our standard is 6, we can also accept up to 7 guests per week. Our house is open to our guests to enjoy. The cozy atmosphere of the living room and the study help make our evenings a congenial experience. Food comprises a mixture of European continental, English and local specialties from the wild life around us. The food is plentiful and nourishing, tasty and special. We do also cater to guests with special dietary requirements.

Since we offer package tours with everything included in the price, we do not charge for beer and wine consumed.

 

Norm:

 

Could you describe a typical day on one of these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Let me refer to our Munken Combi as an example.  It is a tour where every day we return to the comforts of our farmhouse. The day begins at 8 A.M., when we meet for breakfast and where porridge and bread are served. This keeps you going for a few hours and our guests even enjoy it. Next, the guests proceed to the changing room, where they pick out suitable clothing for the day's journey.

 

We encourage everyone to have as much contact with the dogs as possible. The huskies are attention craving, friendly and loving animals. Group members have the opportunity to join in performing daily duties in the dog yard before we venture out on a snowshoe walk with a pack of free running puppies.

 

Most days include a drive with the huskies. They love getting out and their enthusiasm is infectious. We quickly journey into the Swedish forests, and after a 15 mile run, we attend to the dogs' needs prior to our enjoying in our teepee a big grill feast of meat, fish, bread, potatoes and vegetables.

After lunch we sometimes split up; some guests enjoy cross- country skiing, while others want to have a quick ride on the snowmobile down to the lake and try their luck at ice fishing. Usually when children are present there is often a great enthusiasm for tobogganing on our home- made slope.

 

We return around 5 P.M. for coffee and snacks, a quick shower and some relaxation before we all get together for dinner.  If we aren't too tired after the day's activities in the snow we sometimes watch films from the Iditarod in Alaska, or just relax talking, getting a massage, reading a book or simply creeping into bed.

 

Norm:

 

What is the average age group that participates in these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Since we offer 5 different tours, we cater to any age and ability. In fact, we have people of all ages visiting; there was even a baby of 6 month and a lady of 82 participating in our activities and tours last season. Since we have qualified staff to take care of our guests, we are confident that everyone will have the most enjoyable holiday with us whatever age they are as long as they book the most appropriate tour for themselves.

 

Norm:

 

Where do these tours start from and how would one travel from North America or Europe to the site?

 

Bergsvein:

 

Geographically we are situated centrally in Sweden, 40 miles north of the city Östersund, which is an hour by plane from the capitol of Sweden, Stockholm, and where all inland flights commence. There are frequent flights from a number of international airports to Stockholm and regular transfers to Östersund, where we pick up our guests.

 

Norm:

 

How safe are these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

They are very safe. Accidents can of course happen, but we haven't had any incidents that have caused injuries to people. We place a lot of emphasis on teaching our guests how to drive their team of huskies. It should be noted that we have highly skilled dog teams and well prepared trails. Above everything else, it is our experience and attitude to the task of taking hundreds of people on dog-sledding safaris year after year without risk their to their health and still offering our guests the thrill of a speedy dog team leading you around the vast wilderness of Sweden. 

 

Norm:

 

When is the best time of the year to take one of these tours?

 

Bergsvein:

 

The entire winter season has its charm. From my personal experience, any week in our almost 5 months of winter season is equally good. November-December with the short days and winds, snow drifts, swinging temperatures and northern lights and the mushing in the dark with just a head torch; January- with its true mystic and real winter; February- when winter nights are getting shorter; March- with the beauty of the glittering sun and chilly nights; April- with its warm days and soft snow are all what a fantastic winter is made up from. The adventure is truly great what ever time one chooses to come.

 

Norm:

 

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

 

Bergsvein

 

We offer dog-sledding adventures to guests as our vocation and which we enjoy doing. It started with the love for dogs and the outdoors, a hobby has been turned into profession, and I can still say that most days I still enjoy it. I am delighted to see how cheerful our guests are after each day of mushing and after a week's husky holiday. The feed back we received only makes us more excited in receiving new guests every Sunday.

 

Thanks once again Bergsvein for your informative interview and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

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