No need to issue the command “Go!” » to Minnie Mouse. After stamping around impatiently for many minutes, the young Alaskan female finally launched herself onto the track, too enthusiastic at the prospect of frolicking in the fresh air. The problem is that at the other end of the rope attached to his harness, there is an inexperienced skier busy putting on his gloves, kneeling in the snow.
This impromptu departure, while the blades of my skis are across the path, immediately makes me trip, and here I am dragged for a few meters: a scene worthy not of a Disney cartoon, but rather of a cartoon like Tex Avery.
One wonders who, between the playful animal and the human neophyte, was most looking forward to this supervised introduction to skijoring, also called harness skiing, where one or two dogs pull you while letting go. Let’s face it, a bit of apprehension was felt, because “a ski base” is required to engage in the activity and the concept seems a little vague. But overall, knowing how to balance, negotiate a turn and brake in a snow plow proved to be sufficient skills.
And then Roxanne Lazzaroni and Antoine Forest-Côté, founders of the outdoor company Bosco, are there to guide us and provide us with the first ropes of the activity. Young couple nestled in Saint-Siméon, at the head of a pack of 29 doggies treated with great care, Roxanne and Antoine have been organizing since this winter, in addition to their dog sled outings, ski joëring sessions in a Charlevoix decor. Already practicing the discipline for their own pleasure, they wish to make this strange experience known to their customers, making their animals already experienced in sleigh rides available.
Back to Minnie Madness. On Antoine’s advice, I grab the rope near the harness and keep the young dog close to me, calling “wo wo” to calm her face a little. The false start, although a possibility, becomes easier to defuse once the canine’s energy is better gauged. “To begin with, we only harnessed one dog to you so that it wouldn’t pull too hard. Imagine when there are two! », exclaims the guide, himself towed by Spike.
Once back on my skis, we set off on the trails of the couple’s private land, located a stone’s throw from the Palissades de Charlevoix mountain site. The routes total around fifteen kilometers, but in fact, the circuits are infinite. “With the trails, we made it like a big bowl of spaghetti, which allows us to do all kinds of loops and routes,” explains Antoine.
Braking, an art
Minnie left, full steam ahead and with her tongue hanging out. This time, while I am firmly on my skis, the mayonnaise sets. “Release the rope little by little for the start,” recommends Bosco’s guide, who thus spares me the destabilizing jolt of the first meters.
We speed through the snow, a bit like magic, an exhilarating feeling in our stomach.
With our knees bent to simulate a semi-seated position, we feel our calves slightly tense, but the adventure is too pleasant to worry about.
As the first turn approaches, a question arises: to slow down or brake, how do we do it? We remember Antoine’s precious instructions, delivered earlier, with several elements to combine: “You can give the dog the command “Gentle, gentle!” or “wo, wo!”. With your skis, you can put yourself in a “pie” position, like in classic skiing. Another trick is to put one of the skis in the snow bank on the sides. »
I implement. Soft ! Soft ! Um… Soft? Soft ? I must miss the authoritarian tone, since Minnie doesn’t see it that way. Let’s try the pie slice. It works to slow down the pace and prepare for the turning point, indeed. To negotiate the latter, we do our best, lifting one of the skis, or even one after the other. Even if the first curve was missed, even if we faltered on the second, the third and the following ones passed without incident. And for the total stop? We try skiing in the snow bank… but in a slightly too drastic way, abruptly blocking the blades, which causes another tumble into a mattress that is certainly soft, but icy. The secret is to go there gradually, gently. So, we order “gentle, gentle” to ourselves… and it works!
Trainer for everyone and for doggies
One of the big questions that tormented us before starting the activity: is it essential to know how to ski “without skates” (i.e. by chasing the blades sideways)? The answer is no, and I am (still) living proof. On the other hand, it is a good way to start learning this technique. Otherwise, you can simply let yourself be towed or slide your skis forward. But be careful, because a running dog accumulates fatigue. “At the start, they have a lot of energy, but you have to help them by skiing behind them afterwards,” indicate the guides. Hence the importance of leaving sufficient space between the tractor and the towed vehicle, so that the spikes do not hit the puppy’s butt.
What about the equipment? Straps and harnesses are loaned, but you must bring your own skis, boots and poles, not provided by Bosco. As well as the famous “ski base”. “We make this clear when there are reservations. Bringing your own equipment ensures that the person has probably already done it,” says Roxanne, over a complimentary hot chocolate after the activity.
Nordic skis are suitable, but telemarks, backcountry Or snowblades are also options.
It is even possible to bring your dog (minimally athletic, of course), as was the case for a customer who was able to harness his rottweiler, paired with one of Bosco’s animals.
Lovers of their 29 dogs trained in sledding – they are able to recognize each one’s yip in the distance – Antoine and Roxanne also point out the benefits of the activity for their protégés. “Skijoring is ideal for training them, instead of immediately placing them with a gang on a sled, which generates stress. There, we are alone with a dog, we can concentrate on the commands we give him and harness a second, more experienced one to show him how it works,” explains Roxanne.
The sun disappearing behind the Palisades, it is with a few hairs on our mittens and a twinkle in our eyes that we leave the place. Given that my lazy old cat is unlikely to tow me one day, all this almost makes me want to adopt a puppy to ski in the winter.
Activity lasting approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, $80 per person, from 16 years old.
Visit the Bosco Charlevoix website