Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Break Out The Sled

2 Siberian Skijoring vs 2 Siberian Dog Sledding....
Cruising towards the French Gulch trailhead. Max giving photographer mom
a happy "Hi Mom, this is great, we had a blast!" glance.
If you read our blog yesterday, you know that we busted the bindings on my skis and, thus, have no skijoring equipment until repairs are done. That is not going to stop Max, Zorro & I from missing any action on the trails. We got a light dusting of snow last night and the forecast is for a hot (above freezing) Thu-Sat; so, we had to use the trails while the early season conditions allowed it. The solution? Break out our dog sled and sled instead of skijor the backcountry.

Dog sledding versus skijoring, you might wonder... Well, with only 2 Siberians, here is the comparison:
  1. Terrain (backcountry touring). As strong as Max & Zorro are (or any 2 Siberians), they are not able to propel a sled+human up any steep terrain. The human is going to have to hop off the sled and jog up steep hills. In addition, deep snow and mild uphill terrain is going to require "human off & jogging" as well. Conversely, we have never encountered any terrain that we cannot skijor up - a "let's go" to lead dog Max and a little glide help from the human and we can go up anything. Favors: skijoring.
  2. Uphill Speed. Corollary of the terrain analysis - unless you are a world class trail runner, no chance you go faster uphill on a sled versus skijoring. I am not world class... Our typical "max uphill speed sledding" is 6-8mph; our typical "max uphill speed skijoring" is 10-15mph. Favors: skijoring.
  3. Downhill Speed. On a sled - hop on the runners and GO downhill. On skis - your skills as a skier determine the speed you are willing & able to go downhill. I am an intermediate skier, so I have to be cautious on steep downhill terrain while skijoring. Favors: sledding.
  4. Distance. Again, with only 2 Siberians, you are going to be hopping off the sled & jogging as the terrain changes. But, while skiing, you use cross country techniques and Siberian power to push & glide through changing terrain. The result, skijoring 10-15 miles is a comfortable outing, sledding 5-8 miles is a comfortable outing. Favors: skijoring.
  5. Early Season (shallow) Conditions. Consider this: I busted my skis yesterday upon hitting rocks in early season, shallow conditions; but, we did the same trail today on a sled without an issue. Cross country skis do not like exposed dirt & rocks; whereas on a sled you can hop off and jog over exposed terrain. Favors: sledding.
  6. In-Season (deep) Conditions. 2 Siberians are going to struggle breaking trail and pulling a sled through 6+ inches of fresh powder (up, down or flat). 2 Siberians are going to have a blast cutting through 6+ inches when you are on skis and can glide with them. Favors: skijoring.
Summary: Max, Zorro & I love "long distance touring of the Colorado backcountry" - powder, distance and continuous changing & extreme terrain... Survey says: skijoring is for us.

Back to today, though... Skis are busted, the sled came out. We did an "up & back" in French Gulch from the winter trailhead to the beginning of the last open meadow in the gulch. A nice, comfortable route for sledding: only 550 feet of uphill elevations, a tad over 5 miles, packed snow most of the route. As for the 3rd point above (downhill speed) - we hit 20 MPH today on the return (downhill) path - our top speed of the season so far!

Starting off from the French Gulch trailhead. Nice, packed conditions for sledding!
Returning to the French Gulch trailhead. Beautiful, blue ski day for touring the gulch!
Taking a quick break before sledding back down the gulch.
Happy, Happy Huskies!
The path we sledded up in the higher portions of French Gulch.
Pretty deep for sledding, it would have been a piece of cake on skis...
Taking a quick break in the deep snow off the side of the trail.
Nice way to "cool off" before sprinting some more!

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