Where to Skijor in Tantramar?
Skijoring is the growing sport of cross-country skiing with a dog(s) in harness.
Many dogs of 15 kg or more greatly enjoy the sport, and benefit physically and mentally from the exercise. Dogs naturally love to run in a pack.
There are extensive online discussions and links to suppliers of dog harnesses, tug lines and people harnesses at
What you need:
-skis, boots and probably poles (depending on the dog). Good control and steering is more important than glide, unless you are racing.
-a dog that is physically sound, probably 15 kg or more and safe to have around people.
-a dog harness (not a collar). There are different varieties depending on the size and shape of the dog.
-a tug line of 2.5-3 m, usually with a bungee section to help even out the variations in speed -a human harness, which can be a wide, low waist belt, or preferably, a waist belt with leg loops, that aligns the pulling force low with the hips and buttocks, rather than risky jolts to the small of the back
(The sophistication of the belt required depends partly on the strength, steadiness and motivation of the dog).
-a quick release between the tug line and the belt, to separate the human and the dog, if necessary.
(Some people just hold the tugline in their hand, but that is only workable for modest distances. The best quick releases are from
-depending on the dog, a helmet, and ski googles to protect the eyes.
-depending on the dog and length of outing, a dog coat and water bowl.
Why skijoring is fun:
-A fun activity with a dog, that is more exciting than XC skiing -More distracting than XC skiing, because you are interacting with another brain (Squirrel!?) -Quiet companionship for solo skiing.
-Allows faster and/or farther outings
-Can equalize skiing abilities between adults and children, or between strong and moderate skiiers (I can keep Ian Dennis in sight for 6 km, with help from a dog…) -Great for your dog; most pets are bored and overweight.
-Much less dependent on snow conditions than straight XC; deep powder, re-frozen ice, rutted trails, woods roads, slush, hard crust, frozen lakes; there is a good way to skijor on all of it.
Why skijoring is tricky:
-It works best on fairly open trails with moderate hills and wide curves. Steep curves, narrow trails, protruding branches etc. become dangerous when adding a fast dog to the mix.
-Unless the dog is well trained, chasing squirrels, rabbits, moose, coyotes etc. through trees generates excessive excitement.
-It takes a while for both dog and skier to learn; keep the initial trips short, and as always with dogs, if if things go wrong, it is the human’s fault.
-Most Canadian XC skiiers do not like skijoring on their trails, because of paws, poop and panic. The dog paws alledgedly disrupt the track set. The poop is yucky if left in the trail. Fast skijorers with tuglines can clothesline or trip slower skiiers, causing panic.
(The skiing culture is different in Scandinavia, where skijoring is more common).
So: Where to Skijor in Tantramar?
It depends upon the conditions. Some ideas:
1) Trans-Canada Trail, across the marsh, from the High School to Midgic. Good on calm days with good snow. There are several small roads to cross, that require removal of skiis (or rock skiis).
It is unpleasant on windy days, and the snow often blows off the trail, or melts revealing bare patchs. Watch out for snowmobiles and other trail users. The Sackville Snowdrifters lease the trail in winter, so carefully give way to snowmobiles, who have priority.
2) Trans-Canada Trail, from Midgic through to Port Elgin. The snow lasts better in the woods, and the wind is not as bad. This trail is a bit boring for XC skiers, but it is a hoot for skijoring. There are several branch trails, and a major intersection with the NB Snowmobile network. Watch out for snowmobiles and other trail users.
3) The Marshes. Depending on snow conditions, we sometimes get a firm crust on the marsh, which is wonderful for skating and skijoring. The Sackville Marsh, out past the municipal garage, or the Midgic Marsh, just off route 940 towards Midgic, can both be good depending on conditions. Watch out for the ditches, which are sometimes covered with a weak crust of snow, and in some areas for fences.
4) The ATV and snowmobile trail networks. There is an extensive, intersecting series of ATV and snowmobile trails in Tantramar, and each club has a groomer. In general, the snowmobile trails are less rutted, but the snowmobiles tend to travel faster, and some of the snowmobile branch trails are hazardously narrow.
5) Woods Roads. Depending on the snow, the woods access road starting at Walker Road, and running along the highway can be good. The network of woods roads running from Walker Road down towards Sackville can be good, although there are some steep sections.
Doug’s favourite: The network of Irving and other woods roads that start at the very top of Mount View Road, where it dead ends against the highway. These trails are wide, with long stretchs of gently rolling hills and not too many sharp corners. Different sections are groomed by the ATV and snowmobile clubs, other sections tend to be ungroomed, but sometimes skiable. Do not get lost. The roads and trails lead all the way to Aboujagane, rear Memramcook, Cap Pele and beyond.
6) Kouchibouguac National Park. If snow conditions in Tantramar are poor, the 22 km of trails at Kouchibouguac are often good, and (contrary to rumour) are open to skijoring. Fundy National Park trails are not open to skijoring.
Where not to skijor in Tantramar:
1) The groomed track set trails at BeechHill Park are not for skijoring.
2) The Tantramar Outdoor Club trails around Walker Road (Crooked Tree, Reservoir & Blue North) are not for skijoring.
a) The dog does all the work.
Answer: Try it.
b) Only huskies can do it.
Answer: Breeds from border collies, to pitbulls, to German Shepherds, to Labradors can all enjoy skijoring. That said, the northern breeds do tend to bring a certain linear mind set that keeps them focussed down the trail, rather than sniffing in all directions. The current world champion skijoring dogs are generally mixed from husky, German Short Hair pointer, and other lines.
For some dogs like labs or border collies, chasing a fast skiier is a good way to keep on track.
For children, a calm, quiet dog that trots at a modest pace and stops on command is best. For strong skiers, faster, more driven dogs are fun.
contact: Doug Campbell, douglas@environmental proteomics.ca
22 BickertonAve. Sackville NB, E4L 3M7, Canada
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