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    • A husky sled ride in the Waldviertel
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    Dog Sledding in Styria – An Exhilarating Personal Challenge

    A unique winter experience: how a husky sled ride turned out to be an exciting rollercoaster of emotions – from anticipation to a great adventure and breathtaking surroundings. 

    Unbridled Strength, Infinite Freedom, and Plenty of Fresh Air

    As tense as I felt before heading out with the huskies, all the happier and freer I felt afterwards. Content, but also completely exhausted – physically and mentally – I arrived back at the camp. I was out of breath, my legs were weak from helping uphill, and the two dogs were steaming from the exertion.

    My husband was waiting for me eagerly, as he still had his ride ahead. I unharnessed my two companions and gave them the food that had already been prepared for them. This was accompanied by lots of strokes, as a journey like that really brings you together. 

    Dog sledding
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    • But let’s start from the beginning. How did it come about that I found myself on a sled pulled by huskies? It often feels like my husband can read my mind, but when he gave me a husky sled ride on the Teichalm in Styria for Christmas I was a tad confused. Because when it comes to man’s best friend, it’s all about the cuddles for me, and I was aware that dog sledding is an exhausting affair!

    • So my untrained heart skipped a beat and I wondered whether I would physically be able to do it, neither being in the best shape or particularly good at trying new sports, with various scars to prove it. Nevertheless, I put on a brave face, thanked my husband, and looked forward to the joint experience in wintry Styria.

    Preparing for the Husky Adventure

    So far so good. A few weeks later, in mid-February, the preparations could begin. But what would I need? You never know …

    The Essentials

    Be sure to take:

    • Ski suit ✓
    • Ski gloves ✓
    • Hat ✓
    • Socks ✓
    • Sturdy shoes ✓
    • Food ✓
    • Water ✓
    • Sun cream ✓

     

    I do love a list.

    Winter landscape on the Schöckl in Styria
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    And so we set off – well equipped – to the Teichalm. That morning it was snowing like crazy in Vienna, and anyone who has experienced a big city in the snow knows that everything takes longer than planned. Granted, the combination of missing snow chains and snow-covered mountain roads was not ideal.


    We arrived 15 minutes late, but the instructor had kindly waited for us. After the turbulent drive, I was finally able to relax and take in the surroundings. A beautiful high plateau stretched ahead of us, covered in white. The pine trees were sprinkled with icing, the air was bitterly cold, and the dogs seemed to be as excited as we were if there barking was anything to go by.

    Cross-country skiing on the Teichalm
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    Dog Sledding – Tuning Into the Dogs

    • Matthias, our musher, let a dozen dogs out of their kennels as he talked about his animals, their preferences, and traits. "My" huskies were called Aischa and Akon, who was the lead dog and had been a loyal companion to Matthias for five years. As "mushers in training", we hung on to his every word.

      It was a smooth transition from general chat to our introduction to dog sledding. We learned how to harness the huskies to the sled and which commands are used when driving. And – perhaps most importantly – we learned how to brake. To reduce the speed, you have to step on the so-called claw brake, which then digs into the ground. A mechanism consisting of a metal claw, hinges, and a spring attached to the back of the sled. 

    • Shortly before departure, Matthias reminded me: "When starting and stopping, put your foot firmly on the brake! Brake lightly downhill and lean into the corners. Help the dogs when going uphill and never let go of the sled, otherwise the dogs will be off and you’ll be walking back to camp!"

      There was no time for second thoughts now. The snow at our departure point had been flattened, but otherwise we were surrounded by deep powder snow. Was this going to be a disaster?

    •                     Dog sledding
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    •                     Dog sledding
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    •                     Dog sledding
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    •                     Visit "Husky Toni" and his dogs and ride a dogsled
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    • The Tension Rises

      Um, so what was that about using your weight and braking again? But the musher’s command was already echoing across the plateau: "Gooo!" The dogs barked with delight, and I couldn’t even hear what my husband was calling to me. They yelped and jumped, then suddenly it went silent. The two dogs gave the sled one strong tug, and we were off.

    • Fully Alert All the Way

      I was fully focused, my fingers clung on to the handle, and every muscle was tense. It wasn’t long before we reached the first corner, which I mastered without difficulty. Score! A few metres ahead I could see the first hill and did my best to help the dogs. It was exhausting, my heart was racing, and I was out of breath when we reached the top. If only I had been better at going for runs in preparation …

    • Through the Forest

      Now the trail led downhill, the runners glided silently through the fresh powder, the dogs panted, and I was able to put both feet back on the sled again. For the first time I was able to enjoy the stunning views of the trees and meadows, which lay peacefully under a thick layer of snow. The huskies pulled and pulled – quickly, unbelievably quickly – as though their only goal was to shoot out into the world. At that moment I was able to switch off, and simply be in the here and now.

    "You can’t fool a dog. Dogs feel everything; they can almost read your mind."

    Husky Toni - Toni with husky
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    Anton Kuttner alias Husky Toni

    Farewell by the Food Bowl

    As tense as I felt before heading out with the huskies, all the happier and freer I felt afterwards. After an hour we started heading back and I began braking gently to signalise to the dog’s that we were coming to the end of our adventure.

    Content, but also completely exhausted – physically and mentally – I arrived back at the camp. My husband was waiting for me eagerly, as he still had his ride ahead. I wished him a fantastic time, before his sled jolted off. The time had come to unharness my two dogs, Aischa and Akon. I gave them a stroke, buried my fingers in their warm fur, and felt their panting chests. Grateful for the caresses, they held out their cold noses to me. It was lovely to feel their trust and appreciation. I rewarded them with their food, which they wolfed down. But to be honest, I felt just as rewarded as the two huskies.

    Dog sledding
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    The dogs had already been fed and watered when my husband returned from his ride and we registered our own rumbling stomachs. So we stopped at a nearby restaurant. With rosy cheeks from the sun, excitement, and cold, we treated ourselves to a large pan of Styrian "Kasnocken" (pasta dumplings covered in cheese). We fell silent; we were happy. Incredible, how a day of adventure, exercise, fresh air – and animals – can touch all of the senses.

    I am proud of myself for facing this challenge. I would recommend dog sledding to anyone who has yet to try it. Yes, I’m an avid musher!

    Dog sledding
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    The Husky; A Guest From the Far North

    Originally, the powerful sled dog was an important companion of the nomadic peoples in northern Siberia. Its icy origin is attested by the thick, two-layered fur and comparatively small paws, which prevent the loss of body heat. The husky has striking eyes, which can be blue, brown, or multi-coloured. Huskies are friendly, gentle, and fond of children. Thanks to their excellent sense of direction, they can follow paths and routes even when they are covered by thick snow. Husky sled rides are very popular and widespread in the alpine region.

    Dogsledding in the Stubai region
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    Hikes With Huskies in Summer

    Dog sledding is cool, but you can also embark on summer adventures with huskies. 

    Author: Dagmar Tomasek

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