Dog sled adventures; Pull power…traveling at the speed of dog!

We spotted this Dog Sled Adventures kennel truck in front of Whitefish Mountain Lodge a year ago; the friendly huskies peeking out invite a dog sled adventure!

Adventures in a Montana dog sled; awesome pull power, traveling at the speed of dog!

Dog Sled Adventure's huskies being hooked to the tow rope of our sled before our lively ride through Montana's Stillwater State Forest.

A year earlier, we’d seen the kennel truck, with dog sled strapped to the top, of Dog Sled Adventures parked in front of Whitefish Mountain Lodge, Whitefish, MT. Five friendly sled dogs poked their heads out of the side of the truck, eager for attention. I’d snapped a picture, and happily, the name and phone number of the operation was on the back of the truck. Prior to this visit to Whitefish, MT, an alpine and cross-country skiing mecca and gateway to Glacier National Park (more on those attributes below), we called the number and booked our adventure.

Another team of sled dogs being hooked up to a second sled.

Dog Sled Adventures is located in the Stillwater State Forest, 20 miles northwest of Whitefish in foothills of the Rockies. From Whitefish we passed through deep dark forest and I was reminded of the adventure novel by Jack London, Call of the Wild, set in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The central character in the novel is a dog named Buck, able to pull many times his weight in deep snows.

As we navigate the half mile driveway to Dog Sled Adventures compound, scores of sled dogs put up wolf-like howls and yelps. They recognize visitors and the coming opportunity to hit the trail.

Owners Jeff and Signa Ulsamer greet our group of three couples, adding insight about their 130 dogs, huskies and husky mixes. Jeff calls them “Alaskan huskies, a mix of husky, wolf, greyhound and shepherd – mutts. About 40% of our dogs are rescue dogs”. Musher Seth adds, “they love to run and pull sleds, that’s why they are so happy to see you folks”. The dogs will prove both friendly and marvelously high-energy.

Susan and I warming up in the lodge before our sled ride.

Jeff, Signa and Seth will be our mushers today, and they and another handler prepare three 100 pound dog sleds, attaching 9 to 10 huskies to each sled. It’s almost unreal the energy these dogs exhibit, leaping 3 feet off the ground, pulling at the tethered sleds, eager to hit the trail. We are bundled into the Sled, wrapped In blankets under an elk robe, hands free to take pictures.

Our sled, with Jeff as musher, hits the trail with his command “I-eeep! Good dogs!” Our team with nine eager huskies quickly accelerates, led by Labou and Kodiak, with team members Manny, Lady, Brownie, Lurch and several more. Lurch is the oldest, age 15, and brings up the right rear with his long and powerful legs.

As we speedily cover the 12+ mile track, Jeff shares “dogs are retired at age 17; we have about 30 retired dogs; since they get regular exercise and high-protein diet, many of these dogs live to be older than 20. At the end of the run, dogs get hot meat broth, and at day’s end, larger dogs get three pounds of meat and fish, smaller dogs two pounds”. The operation requires 120,000 pounds of meat and fish yearly.

In business for 39 years, 29 years in Olney, Jeff adds, “in an average year we do about 500 sled trips, last year was an exceptional snow year and we did 880! We can load our large sled with a family of four, using additional dogs to pull it”.

This photo falls short in representing the exhilaration of rounding a bend doing 20 MPH behind a lively team of energized dogs, looking forward to their after-ride snack of warm meat broth! The hot chocolate and cookies awaiting us were also properly motivational!



The trail through the Stillwater State Forest, 12+ miles, looks almost like a bobsled track, about 5 feet wide with 3 foot curved sides sloping up to snow level. The forest, thick with towering firs and spruce, is home to wolves, elk, deer, moose, eagles and coyotes. The sled dogs, working as a team, are trained to follow the lead dog – not to chase after wildlife they might spot in the adjoining woods.

Owner Jeff Ulsamer mushes a team of huskies.

Each of our team’s nine dogs can pull his or her own weight, so two adults, the musher and 100 pound sled is no problem.  As we charge down hills hitting speeds over 20 MPH (“the speed of dog”, notes Jeff), I’m thankful Jeff has a brake to slow the sled! As we charge back to the kennel area, the team looks forward to their hot meat broth – eager for a mid-day snack. They’ll get their several pounds of meat and fish at the end of the day.

For us sled passengers, we are exhilarated by such a memorable afternoon; hot chocolate and home baked oatmeal cookies are a fitting end to our adventure, sitting around the fire and exchanging “tall tails” with Jeff. As to an adventure by dog sled; if you get the chance to take a tour, do it!

Whitefish Mountain towers over the town of Whitefish, MT.

Whitefish lies at the foot of Whitefish Mountain, a major ski resort offering over 100 runs, 2500 vertical feet and an almost 5 month ski season. We’re staying at the Grouse Mountain Lodge, wrapped on two sides by Glacier Nordic Center, offering miles of scenic cross-country ski trails. Both offer free skiing to adults 70 and over – a big attraction to our group of retired national ski patrollers. Glacier National Park, offering additional cross-country skiing and marvelous views of Lake McDonald and the towering Rockies, lies just 30 miles to the east, a winter wonderland in its own right.

For more information: Dog Sled Adventures,, 406–881–2275; Whitefish Mountain,; Glacier National Park,; Grouse Mountain Lodge,

Yes, we were bundled between blankets and an elk robe in the sled mushed by owner Jeff; the experience was one of life's memorable events!

Glacier National Park's snowy entrance lies just 30 miles east of Whitefish, MT.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in your world!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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