Exploring what it takes to be a musher

Exploring what it takes to be a musher

Traditionally used in arctic areas for hauling supplies and mail when roads were inaccessible, mushing is now a common form of outdoor winter activity.

With the UP 200 set to begin tomorrow, ABC 10′s Danielle Davis takes us on a ride and explores how dog sledding found its legs in the great white north.

Sled dog races like the Midnight Run, the Tahquamenon, and the Jack Pine 30 are just a few of the competitions that keep these guys busy.

Snowy Plains Kennel is home to 28 sled dogs, and taking care of them is no easy feat.

“I am usually out here after sunrise. I will feed them, clean them, check their feet, play with them, pet them, give them each some attention which takes a while with 28 dogs. Then, it’s time to start feeding them all over again. We consider running the dogs a luxury, it’s what you get to do when all of your work is done,” said musher Jackie Winkowski.

They’re barking like crazy now, but the minute they take off – silence.

Although the mutts do most of the grunt work, there are a lot of things to look out for when running a team of 7 or 8 dogs.

“Like yesterday we went out and there was fresh snow. We made sure we oiled their feet so the snow would not stick to the bottom of their feet. You’re watching their gait to make sure they are not having any problems,” Jackie added.

The runs usually span 2 to 5 miles of snowy trails, and the excitement isn’t just for the riders.

“Everytime we hook up a team and see the excitement of the dogs, it’s brand new all over again,” noted Jackie.

“We get a lot of people involved in mushing and just to see the happiness on some peoples faces, a lot of people say this is the best thing they have ever done,” remarked Jim Winkowski.

Snowy Plains Kennel’s small size is living proof that as long as you have a passion for the sport, anyone can run a team of their own.