When you first arrive at the farmhouse, an experienced guide will greet you, check that you are dressed appropriately, and then accompany you down to the farm itself, giving you a farm tour along the way. If we have known that you were coming ahead of time, your team will generally be more or less ready for you upon arrival. However, if we have time at that point, and there are still some dogs to put in place, we can of course, teach you how to help.
The dogs wait for you on the starting line at the far end of the farm whilst you receive driving and safety instructions and a briefing about your chosen safari in our training area. When you are introduced to your team, we will generally just tell you the ids of your leaders, since you will have a lot of new information in your head. However, if your safari includes a warming break for hot drinks and snacks, this will give you another chance to learn about the dogs in your team.
During the safari itself, we have made a conscious safety decision to accompany the safari with one or two guides on snowmobiles (depending on the number of sledges), in order to be ready to intervene quickly if need be. On average, one client a day will fall off their sledge into the soft snow, thereby giving their passenger an exhilarating, unaccompanied ride through the wilderness. If this happens to you – or if you think that your dogs may be tangled and needing help - you will definitely appreciate the snowmobiles swooping in to ‘rescue’ you.
During the ride we will take breaks so that you can take photographs, change drivers, take the time to admire the scenery, and generally do a ‘comfort’ check.
After your safari you will have an opportunity to learn more about life on the farm, the dogs and our general activities. If time permits, you may be able to learn to unharness your team, give them treats (these can be purchased at the farm) and take them back to their individual kennels. If we have pups, we will of course introduce you to them. Some safaris include puppy walks around the farm’s agility course. If yours does not, but you can’t resist, it is generally always possible to add this product on and sometimes to even help with their feeding.
If you are potentially going to need to borrow kit and clothing from us, please arrive c. 15 mins before the start time communicated for your tour. Otherwise, please arrive just on time since your guide might be giving kit and clothing to someone else and won't be able to look after multiple people until the tour is scheduled to actually start.
It is actually just as unhelpful when people arrive half an hour early as it is if they arrive 15 minutes late, since we don't necessarily have additional staff to help you other than at the designated times since right up until the designated moment, most hands will be working with the dogs.
At the start of the season in particular, when people are frequently travelling long distances to us, some may arrive up to an hour earlier than agreed and some, up to an hour later. If you are more than 20 mins. late, it is super difficult for us to incorporate you into the tour since the other clients will get cold waiting. Hence, please at least give us a call and let us know if you are having issues with the journey so we can try to plan around your needs. Our dogs will normally be waiting, ready, on the start line, at the agreed start time and they will get super cold if expected to wait there too long.
We have a reasonably big yard, with designated areas for staff parking, but please park efficiently since yours might not be the only tour of the day and we also get large buses and delivery trucks coming into the yard.
We do have meters that you can connect your car to, if you have your own cable and you are either taking part in a longer tour (eg over 20km) or if the temperature is extremlely cold (eg below -30C). The plug-in units have timers and run for a maximum of 2 hours so if you are on an overnight tour and need to pre-warm your car, you will need to arrange that with us and to hand in your keys.
Unfortunately, since our heating posts are on timers, it is not possible for those with camper vans to stay overnight.
We take both cash and card payments and accept all standard cards except for American Express. We generally take payment prior to starting a tour.
We have a small souvenir shop that is mostly about huskies - but also includes some essential items that clients sometimes forget to bring with them (toothbrushes, head-torch batteries, heat packs, socks etc).
No. We will teach you everything that you need to know. Most of our clients are driving a dog sled for the first time and all manage fine – whether old or young, heavy or light (although we give those who are light some special tips on how to control their teams, and teenagers can drive only at the discretion of the guides). In other words, no previous experience, either of Arctic living or of dog sledding or skiing is required in order to enjoy mushing. However, should you prefer to simply be a passenger, or should you have children that need to be accompanied by a guide, this can be arranged for our shorter safaris, so long as some notice is given. In that way, no-one in the family need miss out on the thrilling sensation of running with the dogs through the Arctic tundra.
Before every safari, the guides spend time giving a driving demonstration and safety information to those new to the sport. If you follow their simple guidelines you will know enough about how to move with the sleigh, help the dogs on the hills, etc, to enjoy your first safari experience. You will also have drilled into you the key imperative – that you must never let go of your team if you think that you are about to fall off! (We will give you some tips on how to make that realistic).
All these safaris are designed to be suitable for both experienced mushers and for first-timers although some journeys are longer and therefore more physical, and some are more technically challenging and therefore more suitable for the adventurous than others. Ask us to guide you in your selection if you are in doubt.
Unless you are doing one of our longer safaris (and our multiday safaris all include clothing and boots), then you will often be fine to wear your own winter clothing when driving with the dogs.
The guides will, of course, check your clothing and equipment at the start of the safari to ensure its suitability and will recommend hiring better gear if they think that what you have is not sufficient.
Please don't push back at us regarding this. If a guide 'recommends' changing your footwear, they really mean that they think this is the safest option for you - and, indeed, we may choose to not take you on the tour if you are not willing to do follow our safety suggestions. Occassionally, when we think you are borderline, we will leave the decision to you. However, you need to then tell us if you have any medical condition (raynauds, diabetes, circulatory issue, etc) that might make you more at risk than normal and therefore out of the 'borderline' category and into the 'need to rent kit and clothing' category. We cannot guess these things and we do not ask for a complete medical history from those taking part in short daytours.
The onset of frostbite can occur in temperatures as high as -2C given the right extenuating circumstances and this is something that we want to avoid, for you, at all costs. We also want you to be able to enjoy your arctic experience as opposed to potentially shivering through it!
You will need multiple layers underneath your outer layers on the coldest days. Hence, saying that you have two layers under normal ski pants will probably not be sufficient for, for instance, a -30C day.
Your standard outer layer’s function is to repel the elements whilst allowing, at the same time, the escape of moisture from your body. Shells made of eVent fabrics are ideal for those times when you are moving around actively since they allow sweat to escape (thereby allowing your layers to stay as dry as possible), whilst protecting you from the wind and other inclement elements.
In late Spring, this will be the only outer layer that you will likely need when actively driving the sled. However, during colder months and when stopping for breaks on the multi-day safaris, you will also want to have an additional insulating layer made out of down or synthetic insulation like primaloft or our own arctic snowmobile jackets on top of all of the rest of your clothing.
At any time during the safari, if you feel cold or unwell, please tell the guide immediately.
The key factors in keeping warm are layering and communication.
Normal Winter Clothing
When we say 'normal winter clothing' we basically mean the kind of things you would wear for downhill skiing (vs popping to the shop). ie:
• synthetic or woollen underwear
• synthetic or woollen liner socks
• one or more pairs of thicker woollen or Arctic socks (ensure that socks are big enough when worn in double
layers (thin layer first – no cotton). Tight socks restrict the blood flow).
• one or two base layers (depending on the temperature)
• One or two thinner woollen or fleece jumpers (powerstretch or micro-fleeces are ideal)
• One warm fleece, synthetic layer or gillet
• One pair of warm – eg fleece – trousers under your shell pants / sallopettes, unless your sallopettes are well padded
• 1 pair of thin under-gloves, eg Magic gloves
• 1 pair of warm gloves or mittens
• A lightweight hat, eg powerstretch
• A warm hat that also protects your ears – ideally in a wind-proof material
• A winter buff to protect your neck and face (can be purchased here). Balaclavas will also work
• A breathable shell and / or douvet jacket or snowmobile / padded ski jacket, depending on the time of year
• waterproof pants or sallopetes of reasonable thickness
Additional kit Suggestions
• Camera, batteries and film/extra memory. NOTE: If you have a digital camera; batteries do not last for as long in cold temperatures. • Sunglasses are recommended from February onwards to deal with the snow reflection
• Goggles are recommended through the season in case of extreme weather but we generally recommend not using them unless necessary because of the challenge of keeping them fog-clear.
• Sun cream (protection 25) is only needed from late January onwards
• Head torch – important depending on the time of day of your safari between November and February. Can be borrowed from us.
• A very small rucksack for carrying your spare clothing, camera etc can be worn on the back of the musher or held between the knees of the passenger. However, in general we prefer for you to take as little as possible with you, since it is just extra weight for the dogs to pull and for you to push up hills and it also upsets the balance of those driving for the first time.
Hire-kit and clothing is available if you wish.
Clients often try to argue with us - when we think that they are not wearing enough clothing to participate in the tour for any given temperature - that they just want to rent boots and gloves since the rest of their bodies are fine.
However, whenever we hear that argument, it just tells us that they do not understand how the physiology of the body works, when it is cold.
Essentially, (assuming the presence of no medical condition like raynauds), the body only pulls away circulation from the extremities when there is a risk to the main organs. Hence, the best way of ensuring that the feet and hands are warm, is to add a hat or to add a layer of clothing to the rest of the body. Being too hot is easy to fix on safari. Being too cold is not. Hence, if we recommend that you hire kit or clothing (since they are not included in our standard prices), please do so. It is in your best interest.
Yes in most instances. Most of our shorter-length safari prices are based on two adults or two adults plus one or two small children, per sleigh. However, on our longest day-length safari, the 40km winter wonderland, we prefer for people to drive solo or have, at maximum, one child as a passenger, so long as that child is old enough to sit unaccompanied. This distance is already quite long and we do not want to put too much pressure on the dogs. Once we enter the realm of our multi-day safaris, pricing is based on everyone driving solo.
NB: When we have large groups and groups with either children, frail or larger-than-normal adults who are unable to drive (and also when we have safaris on extremely cold days), we may have to juggle people around a little within the group to have the optimum combinations for the dogs and overall group safety. Hence, please be flexible.
We will do our best to keep you with your partner but may ask that you, for instance, drive one out of an elderly couple in order to ensure that everyone can participate. We prepare a set number of teams ahead of time based on communicated numbers and children's ages. We then make a best guess as to sleigh weights but we cannot know, ahead of time, if children or adults are unusually large or frail. In those instances, we have to figure out how to best balance the group across the prepared teams. We can often put on extra sleighs when needed with guide drivers, (although this can involve a small delay as we prepare the teams) but this is, of course, dependent on availability of dogs and guides.
Should you wish to drive solo on our shorter safaris, that is fine for a small surcharge – since we will have to set up additional sleighs. Please let us know ahead of time, so that we know the correct number of teams to set up since the shorter safaris are generally organised around 2 people per sleigh.
For all of our products over 40km, the pricing is based on solo sleighs although you will still be able to take a child who is old enough to sit unaccompanied with you on the 40km Winter Wonderland safari
If you are part of a couple driving one sleigh between you, of course you can choose to just be a passenger if your partner is happy to drive all the way (but don’t miss out on all the fun if you are just a little hesitant – grab your opportunity to try mushing after the half-way mark, since by then the dogs have generally settled into their calm running pace).
If you are without a partner and want to experience running with the dogs but don’t want to drive, that isn’t a problem so long as we have advance notice since we can find a guide to go out on safari with you as your personal musher whilst you sit back and relax, for a small surcharge.
We have over 7000 people passing through our farm each year and are very used to dealing with families. Please trust us that we have a lot of experience in making sure that children are seated in the most appropriate manner for their age, for the family groupings and for the length and type of safari being undertaken. We always endeavour to give you the best possible experience and you can help, with the older children in particular, by warning them that they may not be with you but may, for instance, be in the front guide sleigh, driven by a professional.
If you have a child under three, he or she will always be placed with one of the parents in the sleigh. On very cold days, we have additional sleeping bags that the toddlers can be placed in, underneath the standard sleigh blankets and they generally go to sleep and enjoy the fresh air.
If you have two children under five who are reasonably small and light, we can generally accommodate both in front of the parent in the sleigh without that impacting on the overall speed of the sleigh relative to the other sleigh teams going out on the safari.
However, once the children are a little older, heavier and larger – and when there are more than two of them – please don’t automatically assume that they will all be able to go in the same sleigh with you. We will have considered the group make-up ahead of time and will have made up additional sleighs for older children to share, generally driven by experienced guides.
If you are a lone parent with a child under c. 7, we may add an adult to your sleigh – either as shared driver or passenger - since we will not assume that your child can sit safely alone in the sleigh unless you assure us that they are sensible and will enjoy the experience without the comfort of an adult for company.
On most shorter safaris, we will accompany you with one or two guides driving snow-mobiles (depending on how many sleighs are going out together and on the difficulty of the route) so that they can react easily and quickly to any problems you may have.
Although it is generally very cold on safari, mushers shouldn’t feel like it is too extreme since we have gear that is available for rent which is suitable for the conditions.
In December, January and February the expected daytime temperature is between minus 5C and minus 30C, while at night it often falls to minus 40C. In March we expect minus 5C to minus 15C and by April, spring is in the air with temperatures of zero to minus 5C.
In January there is enough light for outdoor activities from about 9 am until 3 pm. The long twilight hours are coloured with hues of blue, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere. When there is a full moon the snow reflects so much light that outdoor activities are possible even at midnight. The days quickly get longer and by March sunrise is at 7 am. In the far north in May, there is almost 24 hours of light and the sun only dips below the horizon for a couple of hours.
The teams generally consist of 4 to 6 dogs for solo sleighs and 5 to 10 dogs for sleighs containing two, plus, people. Everything is based on experience, weight and strength and you will have been given what we judge to be the optimum sleigh size for you, given the safari in question and the snow conditions.
Those coming for short safaris will be introduced to the dogs in their teams if they are interested and there is plenty of information on the farm about each of the dogs for those interested in learning more. When you are driving, we ask that you pay attention to the dogs to make sure that none are tangling, fighting etc and you will quickly notice differences in their characters. However, to be honest, you are probably going to be primarily concerned with not falling off!
Yes – at least, in theory - because we try to maintain a minimum number of tracks after the training season. However, there are certain key forks – particularly during our shorter safaris- where going in one direction means a return to the farm after, eg, 6km and going in the other, after, 20km - and this is obviously impossible to communicate to the dogs ahead of time. We do not teach clients on the short safaris the voice commands in case they get them wrong in the pressure of the moment and thereby confuse the dogs. Instead, we position the snowmobiles so as to be able to direct the dogs ourselves at the junctions.
Obviously, since the huskies are animals, we cannot be 100% sure that they will always behave exactly as we would wish. Therefore, it is necessary to be ready for unexpected situations during the safaris (for example, when you order the leading dogs to turn left – ‘HAW’ – they may turn right – ‘GEE’ – or when the dogs suddenly stop running or, indeed, when they decide not to stop…). It is these unexpected moments that turn your safari into a real adventure and which leave you with memories that you will treasure forever.
The dogs run at different speeds, according to the distance to be covered. During a safari, we try hard to maintain a steady speed of about 10km per hour, for the safety of the dogs as well as that of the clients. This is a pleasant speed at which to view the arctic landscape. Having said that, it is rare to leave the farm at a speed under 25km per hour, so be prepared for a rush of adrenaline from the moment of departure.
The endurance races of the most famous sledge dogs take place in North America. Among them the Iditarod (Alaska) and the West Yukon (Canada) are the equivalent for the mushers of the World Cup for a footballer or the Raid Gauloises / Eco Challenge races that Anna and Pasi used to do as professional adventure races. These races last for between 8 and 10 days for the fastest teams and up to 30 days for the slowest teams. The distances covered are about 1600km, sometimes more. During the sprint races (short distances over 1 or 2 days) the dogs can attain speeds of around 50km per hour. The most famous Scandinavian dog races are the 500km Femundløpet Race and the 1000km Finnmarkslopet based a short distance from our base, in Alta, Norway.
We sell the safaris as, for instance, c. 12km and c. 2.5 - 3 hours. In other words, approximately 12km and approximately 2.5 - 3 hours.
Sometimes people are upset because their tour takes a little longer or a little less time than advertised. However, we have to set the timings based on an average day when the dogs run at an average speed with an average number of teams. Any time there is a different number of teams from 'average', or the conditions are faster or slower than 'normal', the overall time taken to complete the safari will decrease or increase.
We sometimes end up with the tour finishing more quickly than advertised if the tracks are very icy (i.e. fast) or there are only 1 or 2 teams - since with 1 or 2 teams vs a 6 - 8 teams (pretty normal) vs 12 teams of dogs running.
The time taking to do everything (move the group of people from A to B during the farm tour, settle them into their sleighs, set off on the safari etc), increases exponentially with the number of people participating.
The likelihood of there being at least some issues within the group during the safari, for instance, obviously increases with the number of sleighs running. Hence, a private tour is likely to fly around any given route whereas a large group will take much longer.
We sometimes end up with the tour finishing later than predicted if, for instance, there is a large group or new snow, a storm or other challenging conditions for forward progress.
Our short 6km track, for instance, takes, on average, 30-40 minutes to complete. However, in super fast Spring conditions, with all of our good dogs, it may just 15 minutes and in the early part of winter after a fresh snowfall or in a storm or with a large group, it might take 1.5 hours. And the longer the tour, the more variation there might be from the predicted time to the actual time taken.
We obviously try to finish at the time given. Hence, we may adjust the number of dogs running per team to compensate for the speed of the tracks to try to ensure that the safari finishes on time. However, very occassionally, if we are running super late for any given reason - or the tracks are incredibly challenging for the dogs and clients, we might shorten the standard route to bring us home closer to the communicated time. Similarly, we might do a slightly longer route, in Spring, to again try to give people the time on safari that they are hoping for.
In other words, we use 'c.' in the tour descriptions since we sell the tours based on an approximate number of km in order to try to return within a communicated window of time.
We measure the routes on digital maps since this is more accurate than when measuring with GPS. Of course, the actual route that the first person opens down the 'centre' of the lake (and that everyone subsequently follows and stakes) is never going to be the same from year to year so there will always be small variations in route and length of route from year to year, but these are not substantial.
FYI: Clients using their own GPS units who are not so familiar with how to use them accurately, sometimes question the length of the routes. If your unit is set to measure only every few hundred meters, your safari will be measured in short straight lines which do not resemble at all the tour that you will have taken and the tour will then appear to be shorter than it is in reality. Sometimes significantly.
This region has the highest rate of occurrence of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Finland. This spectacle can be seen on average three out of four nights during the dark season, in clear weather. Hence, although you have a good chance of seeing the lights - whether just a green glow in the sky or a mesmerizing array of colours that run and weave across the heavens – and indeed, although you have an equally good chance of seeing shooting stars and a star-filled sky, we cannot guarantee a brilliant display on our night-time products. If you are unfortunate, don’t despair – there is still nothing quite like running through the wilderness by night with your trusted team of dogs.
Anna or Pasi or one of the Hetta Husky lead guides will greet and guide you during your safari experience. We try to match members of staff accompanying you to your language requirements but the final decision will always come down to the ability and skill of the guide with the dogs and with the route.
Within our guiding team, we normally have fluent (native) Finnish, English, German and French speakers and we fairly often have Dutch / Flemmish-speaking, Spanish speaking and Russian-speaking guides. However, we would need to know in advance if you have any language requirements so that we can try to staff accordingly, since otherwise any given member of staff might be on a day off.
As a general note, most people in Finland speak excellent English and you will have no trouble communicating with local people. If you would like to learn common greetings, etc, in Finnish, then we will be happy to help.