We met Pascal, Carlo’s college friend whom he hadn’t seen in 10 years, in an upmarket Asian restaurant in Sofia for dinner. Just as I was scraping up the last fork full of my beef chow mein, Pascal, who’s been living in Bulgaria for close to 10 years, suggested that we go husky sledding in the nearby snow-covered Vitosha Mountain.
As someone who treats my family dog like a little person, I immediately wasn’t too keen on the idea. In fact, by the time I had finished my apple pie, I had decided that I wasn’t going to do it.
The thought of being pulled up a snowy slope by dogs didn’t sound too appealing at all. Surely that’s cruelty I was thinking. I sometimes carry my dog when I take him for a walk (he’s getting old and isn’t able for the big hills), so I had visions of me getting half way up the mountain with some very tired dogs, with the want to just carry them to the top.
Pascal is a nice guy, and I know he wouldn’t be cruel to animals, so as myself and Carlo hadn’t done anything like this before, I decided to research huskies and husky sledding to see what it’s all about.
A little about huskies…
If you don’t know already, huskies were traditionally used to pull sleds in northern regions of the world, and it’s their fast pulling style that readily differentiates them from other sled-dog types.
They are naturally hugely energetic and athletic. Physically, they’re such beautiful dogs, with a thick double coat of fur that can be grey, white, black or copper red and piercing eyes that would literally make you stare in awe.
Today, huskies are still used for traditional sled pulling among other things. Sled dog racing has become a common sport for huskies and, in recent years, companies have been marketing tourist treks with dog sledges for adventure travellers in snow regions.
They’re also kept as pets, and have become a lot more popular with dog lovers in countries like Ireland and beyond.
I guess it was this that had me thinking that dog sledding was cruel and unethical. I had obviously seen huskies on TV pulling sleds, but I’d also seen many huskies being brought for a walk on a lead around the park, just like any other dog I guess.
After getting some info online and becoming a bit more familiar with huskies and the environment in which they’re most content, we decided to book the husky sledding activity.
Husky Sledding in Bulgaria
We met Julia and Damien from Huskymo Icyland on the top of Vitosha Mountain, the famous snow-capped mountain that’s situated around 30kms away from Sofia city centre. On arriving, we got our first glimpse of our sledge pullers and they were gorgeous.
Julia brought us through the demo on how best to control the sled and how to stop the dogs from running should we need to. That’s probably all I remembered out of the whole demo as I was feeling a little nervous about the whole thing at this point.
The dogs were massively energetic and they were raring to get going. Myself and Carlo would be pulled by 2 dogs each, while Damian and Julia would be pulled by 4 and 6 dogs respectively.
“Great”, I thought to myself. 2 dogs is easy, and as I had been paired with the granddad of the group, I’d surely be moving at a slower speed that everyone else.
I was wrong. Regardless of how old a husky is, these dogs can fairly move! They’re strong, they’re agile and they relish in their natural environment. We had 2 pit stops during the 1-hour activity and it was so lovely to see the huskies get on their backs and twist and turn in the snow. They loved it.
You might think that an hour is a very short time period for such an activity, but trust me, the husky sledding takes its toll on the muscles, and I’m not talking about that of the dogs!
As the huskies need to be helped uphill by their passenger, it wasn’t long until my calves were burning. Had I been a little fitter, it wouldn’t have been a problem. *Oh how I miss my gym routine in Thailand!*
Anyway, the whole experience was so enjoyable and one that I’d definitely recommend and I would do it again in the future, should the opportunity present itself.
The sled was easy to control and even though I fell off twice, my nervous disappeared once I got familiar with the mechanisms of the stop control mat-thing that was at my feet.
As you’ll see from the photos, the landscape on the mountain was beautiful and I’d imagine getting off the beaten track and further into the deep snow would be even more spectacular.
Is husky sledding cruel?
Nope. Huskies are working dogs and they LOVE having a load to haul in snowy conditions. Julia and Damien care for their dogs, and knowing that our huskies were looked after was apparent from the moment we met them.
From what Julia said, they have 14 dogs in total and while some of them live with Julia and her family, others live in other homes around Sofia and are collected and brought to the mountain for regular exercise and whenever there’s a tour booked in.
The dogs are happy because they get to spend time where they love to most, the dog owners are happy because their big huskies come home tired and content, and Julia and Damien are happy because they’re providing a service and getting to enjoy time with these dogs whom they adore.
The activity was great value for money, and with the use of seated sledges, it’s something that the whole family could enjoy whilst in Sofia.
Julia was kind enough to drop us down to the foot of the mountain where we could get a taxi back to the city centre, so we got to snuggle up with 7 of these gentle giants off the slopes. Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe how welcome they made us feel – just look at this pic!
To go husky sledding or not to go husky sledding…
If you’re someone who likes huskies and nature, or if you’ve a willingness to try something completely new and are not afraid of the cold, husky sledding is for you.
On the contrary, if you’re the kind of person who absolutely hates the cold or you’re someone who has no appreciation for nature or wildlife, it’s not for you.
On that note, if you fit the latter description, you probably wouldn’t even be contemplating doing something like this anyway and you don’t deserve to spend time with these beautiful dogs!
Even though our time on the mountain was short and sweet, it has given me a new love for these animals and our husky sledding in Bulgaria experience is the standout highlight from our time in Bulgaria.