A couple of weeks ago, I took a group of students from the Maritimes dogsledding on Québec’s south shore. The weather was perfect: warm enough to keep the eighth graders comfortable, cold enough to keep the canines cool. The snow was ideal as well: abundant and slick, with fresh flakes falling gently from above.
The sleds moved easily along the groomed trails. We followed each other in a long serpentine line, each sled with one student driving and one student riding, and scores of yipping, enthusiastic dogs. Our guide was at the front of the line, coaxing her dogs through field and forest. I was in the last traineau with Mathieu, a school chaperone, pulling up the rear, ready to pick up dropped mittens and hats.
The students mastered the art quickly, having been given a 10-minute tutorial — ample training to turn even the most hesitant into confident mushers. They learned how to stand on the foot boards, how to lean into their turns and, most importantly, how to brake, a necessary skill since the dogs have only one gear: GO!
When our morning ended, the students stepped off their sleds jubilantly. Over steaming cups of hot chocolate, as the dogs took their rest, the students bantered about their success.