Aliy and Allen were invited to speak at the Hakadal Sledehundklubb Seminar September 22nd and 23rd. We spoke about SP Kennel facilities, training techniques and racing theories. Other speakers included: Thomas Waerner, Stein Havard Fjestad and Jan Vidar Dahle. Norwegian mushers are dedicated to the sport and their dogs with a passion that inspired us.
Snorre Naess picked us up at the airport and showed us around. He was raised in Olso and has a kennel in the forest area to the north west of the city. He is also a renowned sled builder and shared many design ideas. We wouldn't be surprised to see Snorre's sleds up and down the Iditarod trail soon.
Our hosts for the weekend were Elisabeth Edland and Per Olav Gausereide. We stayed at a moose hunting cabin just up the valley from their home and champion mid-distance racing kennel (www.flyinghuskies.com). Their house was the meeting place Friday night before the seminar. Mushers continued to arrive and we were up until after midnight talking about dogs and our beloved sport.
We were lucky to be welcomed by such passionate and talented mushers (and their dogs!) The mushing dedication that Elisabeth and Per Olav have was obvious each morning when the dogs were run loose in their pen, harnessed, trained by cart or quad and then run loose afterward. This system of training allowed them to monitor each dog individually - before, during and after training.
We had planned an additional four days to "tour Norway". We were elated when Morten Borgen allowed us to borrow his vehicle. So, during the seminar we asked if there were any kennels that we might visit - simply to see Norwegian mushing first hand. Well, the response was overwhelming! We had far more invitations then we could accept. (Thank you EVERYONE for your invitations!) So, in the end, we saw no fjords, stave churches or viking ships ... but we saw a great many sled dogs and mushers!
The first day, we were welcomed by Iditarod champion, Robert Sorlie and his wife, Elin, at their home and kennel. Fantastic dogs and a kennel set up to envy the best kennels in the world. The dogs were in tune with every move that Robert made as he walked through his yard of 16 adult huskies talking to each one and telling us a few dog stories.
That afternoon Robert and Elin (and their little "powder puff" Pekinese dog) took us on a walk through their small village overlooking a mountain lake. We visited the sled dog kennels in the area including Iditarod musher, Bjonar Andersen's home. Bjonar is still recovering from a fall that he took during Iditarod in 2009. He had a kidney removed this Spring and says he feels much better. His home and dog yard along the mountain lake is remarkable. He had some gorgeous dogs as well.
Iditarod musher, Sigrid Ekran met us at Robert's and we drove north together the next morning. She suggested that we stop for lunch at mushing legend Stein Havard Fjestad's home. While talking to Stein Havard we could feel the enthusiasm that he has for sled dogs. He raced the Iditarod in 1977 and has been consumed with the "sled dog addiction" since. He has kept semen straws gathered from the top Alaska sled dogs for over 20 years. His breeding program is obviously purposeful and he continues to try and bred the best possible canine athlete.
We then traveled further north past Lillihamer (site of the 1994 Winter Olympics). We were delighted to see the enormous ski jumps along the mountain sides. We drove through small villages, over snowy mountain passes and to Sigrid's kennel near the small village of Folldal.
Sigrid's kennel was a treat. We saw here unique "two-dog" condominium houses. They keep dogs warmer and save on materials.
Sigrid has fenced in a tremendous amount of space so that her dogs can run free. There are literally countless sheep in the area, so dogs are not allowed to roam outside of pens. (Actually that evening Sigrid woke to barking dogs and found a fox fighting a sheep just outside her fencing. The fox was throwing the sheep into the fence. She chased off the fox and went to rescue the sheep but, all it did was butt her in the legs - so she gave up. However, there was no sheep or fox to be found come daylight!)
While in the area we visited Swiss native, Emil Inauen. His racing success in the Grand Odyssee and mid-distance races is notable. His dog yard was great to visit and Aliy had a hard time not stealing his, now retired "Superdog", Leda. (Do you think ChaCha would share the couch?) The puppy pen was a delight. The pups played just outside of the house!
We were very intrigued by the sled building throughout Norway. We were welcomed into Emil's sled building shop. Allen has been toying around with new sled improvements for his Yukon Quest sled, so this really got his mind reeling. Emil's sled company is Bewe Sleds (www.bewesleds.com).
We then stopped by the home of Iditarod musher, Hernan Maquieira and his wife, Vanessa Quinche. Vanessa is the General Manager for the Femundlopet (sled dog race). They are training 13 yearlings. The yard was a flurry of dog tails as we approached. The youngsters had just finished their daily romp around the pen. (Good thing! There were probably 500 sheep surrounding the pen and if a dog kills a sheep a musher must pay for the sheep.)
In Norway, we are sure that the fjords are gorgeous and the history is rich. But for us, this country was fantastic because of the welcoming and genuinely adventurous people. (Not too mention the amazing dogs, a few pretty cool cows and two rather bold cats that accompanied us on a morning hike - that's never happened in Two Rivers!)
Thank you everyone who made of "Tour of Norway" grand!