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Dogsledding: Let's Go Dashing Through the Snow

dogsledding at Nemacolin near Falling Rock

One of the most popular winter experiences at Nemacolin is dogsledding. Overnight guests and members truly clamor for this experience, but there are others that love it even more — the dogs!

At this time, Nemacolin is home to 17 sled dogs, with more joining the team very soon. Do you have this experience reserved for your next Nemacolin resort getaway? If so, you’re probably excited. As you’ll see when the dogs get dressed in their harnesses for your ride, they are excited, too! The Wildlife Team likes to say that every dogsledding run for the dogs is like their birthday and Christmas morning wrapped up in one. Their big hearts and enthusiasm will win you over before the sled begins moving.

Dogsledding at Nemacolin

The Wildlife Adventures Team at the resort offers dogsledding from the end of November through March, with the weather as a determining factor. Snow is one element, but the temperature is even more so. Once real-feel temperatures reach 40˚F or below (4˚C), the pups are ready to go, go, go. The Nemacolin team is a group of working dogs, and for the safety of the animals, that real-feel temp is a safe threshold for the work they do. It can be disappointing to a guest to have the experience canceled or postponed, but it’s done for the dogs’ safety when the weather is too warm for them to risk overheating.

When the temperatures are right but the snow hasn’t yet covered the ground, a team of 9-12 dogs will pull a Fritz Dyck Touri cart over the grassy fields and meadows along the Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock golf courses, past Falling Rock, and along the former polo field at the resort. The cart (pictured above) can handle the grass, mud, water, and light snow giving riders a thrill! A musher serves as a safety guide for guests and dogs, and guests are seated in one or both of the seats (with weight considerations). A resort Club Car made for the terrain follows along to assist the musher and dog team and to carry additional guests in the same party.

When the snow falls to a solid thickness, the sled comes out. Instead of wheels, the dogsled has runners that glide over the snow. The ride’s scenery is similar to the three-mile course on the Touri Cart, yet the path and course differ to handle the sled’s runners. No matter the course, cart, or sled, the ride is exhilarating during this unique experience.

... every dogsledding run for the dogs is like their birthday and Christmas morning wrapped up in one.

Many of the dogs at Nemacolin are from generations of pups working at the resort. Others come from long lines of dogs who have pulled sleds, raced, and worked across the snowy parts of the United States. At Nemacolin, you’ll see Alaskan-Type Huskies and an Elkhound mix. The gene pool from this mixed breed is diverse, and you’ll see that in their size, personality, coat, and look. In other parts of the world, a number of different breeds serve as sled dogs: Siberian Husky, Alaskan Husky, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Chinook, Norwegian Elkhounds, and more.

Dogsledding Terminology

Let’s become familiar with some dogsledding terminology:

Touri Cart:  The dogsledding vehicle Nemacolin uses most frequently.
Sled:  The dogsledding vehicle used when there’s a good snowpack.
Hike:  Go!
Gee:  Go right!
Haw:  Go left!
Musher:  The person controlling and giving instructions to the dogs.
Lead Position:  The dog that listens to commands and pulls the least amount of weight.
Swing Position:  The dogs who help turn the team with placement behind the lead position.
Team Position:  The dogs in the middle keeping the line tight and maintaining speed.
Wheel Position:  The back four dogs pulling the most weight. These dogs have physical strength and tenacity as the engines of the team, pulling more weight than the other dogs.
Gangline:  The line that attaches the dogs to the cart or sled.
Mush:  This word isn’t a dogsledding term to make the dogs go. Movies about dogsledding often use it, but dogsledding teams don’t. A musher is a person on the sled or cart telling the dogs where to go, and hike actually means go!

Meet the Dogs

And now let’s get to know some of the dogs you may encounter:

Sled Dog Congo, male, 9 years old
Congo | Male | 9 years old | Congo weighs a whopping 75 pounds! That makes him one of the biggest dogs on our sled dog team. Congo performs a critical job on the sled: He is a wheel position dog. When Congo isn’t running with the team, he can be found resting in his heated dog box or showing off his impressive hand-shaking skills at Creature Feature as one of our sled dog ambassadors.
Sled Dog Squirt, male, 10 years old
Squirt | Male | 10 years old | Squirt is the second largest of the dogs. He was named Squirt because he was the smallest of his litter (not anymore!). He's best known for his happy little tippy-taps when you walk over to him, and he’s one of the friendliest dogs at Nemacolin. Squirt is one of the best runners — a staff favorite to take out with the team. A big bonus is that he also likes to give great hugs!
Sled Dog Snowhook, female, 8 years old
Snowhook | Female | 8 years old | Snowhook is one of the command leaders, coming to Nemacolin from Alaska where she previously trained at a professional kennel for the Iditarod. Even though Snowhook is one of the smaller dogs, she has the biggest drive for pulling the sled. Her distinct bark can be recognized by anyone, and it motivates the other dogs to keep running. When she isn’t taking the lead on a run, she can be found chilling out in her heated dog box or barking up a storm with her neighbor, Scooby.
Sled Dog Scooby, male, 10 years old
Scooby | Male | 10 years old | Scooby was born and raised at Nemacolin. He is getting older, but his keepers often forget how old he is because he really doesn’t act his age. Scooby is always game to play in the yard with the craziest pups, and he makes it known that he wants to be picked to go on every cart or sled run. He serves as a team and wheel dog, and he’s versatile with his partner dogs. Scooby can be counted on to help teach the younger pups how to pull a sled.
Sled Dog Smokey, male, 7 years old
Smokey | Male | 7 years old | Smokey was born and raised at Nemacolin. He is a one-of-a-kind dog, often found with a goofy-crazy look on his face, and he loves to spin around in excitement when he sees the sled or food. He wants to be picked to go on the team, yet he prefers to run by himself or with his best friend, Nora. Nora and Smokey used to live in kennels next to each other, and they formed a bond that Smokey says can’t be broken.
Sled Dog Nora, female, 9 years old
Nora | Female | 9 years old | Nora is one of the most playful dogs when she’s off the lines. She also loves puppies and is great at teaching them how to be sled dogs. Unlike her brother, Congo, she’s a little more reserved with people, but once her trust has been earned, she’s a friend for life. Nora runs best in the team position and often runs with her best friend, Smokey!
Sled Dog Timber, male, 4 years old
Timber | Male | 4 years old | Although Timber is four years old, he’s often referred to as one of the puppies on the Nemacolin team. Timber is the fourth generation of a family of dogs that have been pulling the sled at Nemacolin for more than 15 years. As a younger dog with a lot of energy, Timber often runs in the wheel position with his brother, Atlas.
Sled Dog Atlas, male 4 years old
Atlas | Male | 4 years old | One of the puppies born here at Nemacolin in 2017, Atlas has turned into quite the handsome husky. He is always excited to greet his handlers and the guests, but he’s even more excited to run with the team. This ball of energy rarely has all four paws on the ground! He loves nothing more than a good petting after a hard day's work.
Sled Dog Mooney, female, 7 years old
Mooney | Female | 7 years old | Mooney is a staple on the sled dog team. As a retired racing sled dog, she does very well in the team position, keeping the line tight and her partners moving. Mooney is very sweet and affectionate. Despite looking like a yellow Labrador, she is 100% Alaskan-Type Husky. Mooney runs well with most of the dogs in our kennel, but she is happiest running with her best friend, Aurora.
Sled Dog Aurora, female, 9 years old
Aurora | Female | 9 years old | Aurora or “Rory” is a little dog with a very sweet personality. Rory came to Nemacolin from a racing sled dog team in the spring of 2020. She is retired from racing, and she enjoys slower-paced runs. She can run in the swing position with her friend Mooney, or she can be with another friend in lead. She follows her nose, and in her downtime, she loves cuddles and attention.
Sled Dog Diesel, male, 10 years old
Diesel | Male | 10 years old | Diesel is one of the biggest sweethearts on the dogsledding team, always ready for snuggles. He’ll excitedly tip-tap with his feet when approached, and he presses his forehead to his trainer’s chest, putting his paw up on their shoulder to get kisses. He’s also known for stealing his trainer’s gloves. He loves seeing the sled pull up in the mornings, and he gets excited to go on a run with the rest of the team. During the runs, he’s in the team position, but he can also be placed in a wheel position. He also loves when he gets to run with his brothers Squirt, Scooby, and Vinny.
Sled Dog Sven, male, 1 year old
Sven | Male | 1 year old | Sven is one of the newest additions to the Nemacolin sled dog team. At only a year old, he’s just a puppy, so he’s still learning the ropes. Sven likes to bounce up and down in his kennel, letting you know that he is most excited to go out on a run. He’s unique to the team since he’s the only dog that is not part Alaskan Husky. He’s an Elkhound mix, which is evident by his extra fluffy coat and curly tail. The Wildlife Team is excited to see what he does during his first dogsledding season.
Sled Dog Salem, female, 1 year old
Salem | Female | 1 year old | The final beauty pictured is Salem. Born in 2021, she came to Nemacolin around Halloween of that year. She’s our social media star! Many of you may remember her, as her name was chosen by the guests, fans, and associates of Nemacolin through an online vote on the resort’s Facebook page. She is a strong, young pup who is eager to learn and finds ways of entertaining herself. She can’t wait to show off her stuff in her first dogsledding season!
Crow | Male | 4 years old | photo unavailable | Crow is one of the newest additions to Nemacolin dogsledding. He came to us all the way from Wisconsin, where he was a part of a racing sled dog team. Though he is one of the younger dogs in the kennel, he is one of the most hard-working dogs. Crow is one of the command leaders and loves to be in lead and have the team go fast, yet he’ll run in just about any position on the team from lead to team to wheel. He likes to run with his best friends Salem and Sedona. A fun fact is that he, Sedona, and Salem all come from the same kennel.
Sedona | Female | 9 years old | photo unavailable | Of all the positions on a sled dog team, no one really pulls as much as the wheel dogs. One of our wheel dogs is Sedona, who could run for miles on end without complaining. She often runs with her best friend, Pi, and together they pull most of the weight. When the team stops for a break, Sedona is always ready to go again! However, she is not all work and no play; Sedona loves to get scratches after the run by guests and our mushers who make sure she knows she did a great job.
Pi | Male | 8 years old | photo unavailable | Pi is one of a kind. He is the hardest-working dog on the team, and his drive is unmatched. Pi came to Nemacolin from a competitive racing kennel, and he brings that power to the team when he runs in the wheel position. He is always eager to go on a sled run, putting 110% into every single experience. The Wildlife Team likes to say that the cart is pulled using Pi Power! It is undeniable that he loves what he does.
Vinny | Male | 10 years old | photo unavailable | Vinny is one of four brothers who are veterans on the Nemacolin sled dog team. His brothers are Squirt, Scooby, and Diesel. Vinny is energetic and in his younger years, he often ran in the wheel position. Vinny now often runs in the team position, and he is a patient teacher for younger dogs joining the team.


Doggie Downtime

The dogs have heated dog boxes and fresh straw in their kennels in the winter. It’s in their genetics to have a thick, water-resistant double coat that naturally keeps them warm, so they are often seen sleeping on fresh snow. They’re fed a performance blend food, and they enjoy special treats, baths, enrichments, and care from their keepers. The dogs will go on one or two runs a day, with two or more days off a week.

The sled dogs at Nemacolin are well-loved and cared for by the wildlife and veterinarian teams. In the off-season, they enjoy their summer vacation with playtime in the yard, smaller playgroups with their best buddies, some mild weight training, endurance exercises, and strict protocols and cooling systems in place to keep them from overheating.

Reserve Your Experience

To reserve a dogsledding experience as a part of your overnight winter getaway or membership with The Woodlands Club, please contact a Resort Reservations Specialist at 866.344.6957. There’s often a waiting list for this popular adventure, so it is recommended to make your reservations well in advance. Click the following for more suggestions on dining, spa, wellness, golf, and experiences at our Pennsylvania playground. There’s an adventure for everyone at Nemacolin!