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In Colorado, Dog Sleds Give Tourists a Ride

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By Susan Feeney
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ten giddy dogs bound down the snowy path pulling a small sled of equally happy humans. There's barking and laughing.

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We bump across mounds of snow and speed around a curve. Then a black husky gets his left hind leg tangled in the tether. We wince as Jet is dragged along the packed snow.

"Hang on, Jet!" the musher yells. "Hang on, buddy."

Turns out, there's no real way to stop a dog sled careering down a mountain run. No pull on the reins, no brake, can stop 500 pounds of pumped-up dogs. Not on this kind of hill.

Poor Jet. He skids into Yogi, the golden husky behind him. With the adrenaline flying, Yogi snarls and snaps at Jet's backside.

Mercifully, the path levels off. And we all have work to do. Musher Cameron Bevard yells for me and Jackson, my 10-year-old son, to hop out and stand on the brake at the back of the sled while he untangles Jet.

We try. We do. But dogs going downhill want to keep going downhill. They jerk the sled forward. I lose my footing. Cameron's already up to his knees in dogs. Luckily, Jackson holds on and steadies the sled and the team.

Few family outings can match this for fun, and fun with jaw-dropping mountain vistas.

Here in Wolcott, Colo., down the road from chichi Vail, dog-sledding stands out for its simple authenticity. There are no boots, bindings or fancy skis. No grinding, gas-powered snowmobiles, either. Just 50 barking dogs, five handmade wood sleds and three families basking in a cold, blue-sky Sunday morning.

We decided to dog-sled because not everyone in our family skis -- and because my kids love dogs with the same intensity that I don't want one to follow us home. This was pretty safe; 1,800 miles is far even for Lassie.

It's pricey. But Mountain Musher Dog Sled Rides picks us up at our hotel and takes us to the Lazy J Ranch in Wolcott. We pile two to a sled with pillows behind us and heavy wool blankets on top.

It's an hour's ride up the groomed trail and half that time going down. We pass a frozen pond and an aspen grove. One musher points out fresh animal tracks. Could be coyotes, he says. We're hoping it's deer.


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