AKA one of the best days of my life…
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have spotted that in January, I headed off to the snow-covered depths of Finland for a winter adventure week. I went pretty out of my comfort zone with some of the activities (um, cross country skiing?!), but one thing that was well and truly up my street was a day spent visiting Kota-Husky to meet a WHOLE LOAD OF GORGEOUS DOGS and go sledding.
I spent the entire ride from Basecamp Oulanka, where we stayed, to Kota-Husky, in a whole bubble of excitement. I’d been waiting for this one for the past four days, and couldn’t hide my excitement as we pulled into the gates, my face pressed to the glass looking for my first husky sighting.
We were greeted by Lauri, who owns Kota-Husky and lives there with his family. He welcomed us into his home, where we added an extra layer to our Arctic outfits. Our group was split into two smaller groups – one half got straight to the sledding, and the second half, which I was in, took off on a tour around the centre. And meet all those beautiful dogs!
There are around 80 dogs at Kota-Husky. All of them are named after Finnish lore – except for two Alaskan husky pups, Seita and Sirius. Aged just eight months, they jumped all over their kennel when we came to visit, and were just ridiculously ADORABLE and WONDERFUL and energetic and lovely.
Inside the kennels, we met dogs that weren’t working, either for reasons such as the lady huskies having their ‘time of the month’ (yep, that’s a thing!), or simply that they were having a scheduled rest days.
Lunch was served in a tipi tent, and we huddled around the fire tucking into a delicious soup. Perfect for warming up in the far-below-freezing weather!
After lunch, we headed over to a whole bundle of excitable dogs raring to get running. I got given the group of five at the very front…which meant I was going first…
The moment I released the brake on the sled, we were off to a jolting start – I don’t think I was quite ready for how fast these dogs go! I basically held on tight, braking slightly on the downhill slope as the team had instructed us to do.
Once the initial burst of excitement was over, the huskies slowed to a less breakneck pace, allowing me to gawp excessively at the scenery around me. Pure white expanses trimmed with snow-dusted trees, it was a perfect winter wonderland that I was honoured to be shown by these gorgeous animals.
(Even if they did let some number twos loose a fair bit mid-run…)
The run was 10km, which gave plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and appreciate the dogs. As much as I loved it, standing on the edges of my sled did make my feet a bit sore. SO worth it though.
Once we’d headed back to base, the dogs had a well-earned rest and I got some well-appreciated husky cuddles…and I could probably have stayed there for the rest of the week.
Just when I thought I’d hit peak husky, though, we headed back over to the kennels and the team RELEASED THE PUPPIES. They ran around, jumped, played, and I even got a cheeky little kiss. I died a little from happiness, I swear.
One thing I was a little concerned about when it came to husky sledding was the ethical side – whether the dogs are well treated, and whether it’s cruel to make them run. And there are definitely husky sledding experiences in the Artic Circle where the dogs’ welfare isn’t the primary concern. But after visiting, that’s definitely not the case at Kota-Husky.
Owner Lauri, his family and staff all know each and every dog by name, and they feel like beloved pets as much as they’re working dogs. When the huskies get too old to run regularly, they’re still kept active by being involved in training the young pups, and taken for regular non-commercial runs.
Huskies need daily exercise, and the ones we met genuinely love running. The team make sure there are enough dogs on each sled team to share the load, and they rotate dogs to have days where they’re not pulling customers. There’s no ‘racing’ involved, which means the huskies can run at their own pace. And unless you put your foot on the brake pretty hard, they’re definitely the ones in control!
Visiting Kota-Husky, going sledding and meeting all the dogs has to be one of my all-time favourite experiences. The dogs were gorgeous, enthusiastic and happy, and the husky dog sledding experience was a wonderful way to experience Finland – one I’ll definitely remember for a long time.
Prices for husky dog sledding at Kota-Husky start at €115 per adult (based on two sharing a sled) for a 10km run and lunch. I visited as part of Exodus Travels’ Finnish Wilderness Week, where it’s an included activity.