Sweden, March 2023: Icehotel, Dogsledding and Skis

Skiing. With dogs.

From Jokkmokk, we went south.

I had used a rented car last year to get from Gällivare to Umnäs after the dog sledding trip. But no such luxury (mostly) this time.

There is a bus connection from Jokkmokk to Slussfors (the nearest bus station to Umnäs) and it can be done in a day, but it's a long ride. (More than six hours.)

And sitting in a bus a day isn't my idea of having an enjoyable vacation. (Although, to be fair, the bus ride(s) were good. Mostly there was one person per row, so there was ample space. And there were electrical outlets and WiFi on the bus, so I could catch up on my mail, start to sort through the photos I took during the dogsledding trip and have a look at the GPS data from the trip.)

To avoid having on long bus ride, the idea was to have two shorter ones instead, making the days a bit more relaxing and vacation-like.

If you do the trip in one day, you need to change busses at a small town named Storuman.

Why not take the bus to Storuman (about four hours), do a bit of sightseeing, stay in a hotel there and then do a second, shorter, bus trip the next day?

While that added one day to the schedule, it also meant that it would be better 'vacation traveling' then squeezing it all into one long day.

But why go to Umnäs at all?

It's a slightly convoluted story.

I had been in Umnäs the previous year and spent a week trying to learn basic cross-country skiing.

This wasn't a completely arbitrary idea.

There was a specific trip I had been considering (vaguely, something to be done at some point in the future), which would require at least some basic competence on cross-country skis.

Essentially, the question that I was trying to answer was "Can I go 25 km on skis over flat ground, like a frozen lake?"

Ultimately, nothing came out of this, as the trip that I had considered doing was no longer an option.

However, it's not as bleak as it seems. After I decided that "yes, 25 km on flat ground would be roughly the limit of what I could do in a day", I tried to organize the trip I had considered, and found out it was no longer available (in the sense of "in the last decade only two people have asked about the ski trip, so we stopped offering that").

There were, however, other possibilities to do what I had wanted to do, which didn't involve cross-country skiing. (Which was always a means to an end - I didn't particularly want to go cross-country skiing. I wanted to go somewhere, and at that point, skis were the only option to get there.)

So while the whole "learn basic cross-country skiing" itself turned out to be pointless, it ultimately led to a trip that I wouldn't have done without it. (I wouldn't have asked about the cross-country ski travel without being confident that I would be able to do it, so I wouldn't have started talking about alternatives.)

If I am a bit vague about that trip - there's a reason.

Right now, I'm being on it and so far things didn't quite work out as planned.

Two flights have been cancelled and I have been kicked of the passenger list on a third one, as the flight was massively overbooked. (Ten persons don't seem a massive overbooking, but if the plane only has room for 37 passengers, it is.)

Usually missing a flight annoying, but not that big an issue. But if there are only two flights a week, then that can really mess up your travel schedule.

As a result, at the moment, I am sitting in a hotel room (paid for by the airline) and have an unexpected amount of free time. Which I use to write the text on this web page.

In the end, my attempt at learning basic cross-country skiing skills didn't lead to any cross-country skiing related vacation activity, but it did lead to some travel plans. (Which might ot might not become actual travel activities.)

All of that has indirectly to do with why I was travelling to Umnäs.

I did my 'learn cross-country skiing' with Catte (in Umnäs) before I went to the dogsledding part of last year's vacation. (Much more about that is written here).

And during that dogsledding trip, I told Constanze about it.

Who, essentially, went "That sounds like a fun thing to do. Maybe I should try it myself some time."

Based on that, she had the idea to go to Umnäs after this year's dogsledding trip and go cross-country skiing with Catte.

Constanze exchanged various mails and messages with Catte to organize her stay in Umnäs.

And in November last year, there was a mail from Catte saying "Oh, by the way, would Christian like to come to Umnäs as well?"

So I thought about it, thought "Yeah, why not?" and decided to go to Umnäs as well.

That caused a few minor changes in the plan.

As already mentioned, one change was to stop in Storuman instead of being stuck in the bus all day.

But instead of getting off the bus in Slussfors, we continued our trip to Hemavan for a couple of reasons, mostly rentals.

Catte didn't have any skis (and especially ski boots) suitable for Constanze, so Constanze needed to go to the ski rental place in Hemavan to get skis, poles and boots.

While I wanted to rent a car in Hemavan for driving to Umnäs.

Partly for logistical reasons. While the bus service between Hemavan and Slussfors is ok, it runs only four or five times a day, so it might have been tricky to get back to Slussfors on the same day. Also (which we didn't know at that time), Catte and Kenneth were on some horse riding event that day and didn't come back until late that evening, so we would have needed to sit around at the gas station in Slussfors for a couple of hours.

Additionally, for the way back a couple of days later, it would be much easier to drive with the car to the airport in time for the flight, instead of taking the bus and then standing outside the airport until it opened.

In short, using a car made things a lot more flexible.

More important, though, I wanted to be able to drive around and see different places, while Constanze was learning cross-country skiing.

Because, at that point, it had nothing to do with me. At all.

I wasn't even going to rent any skis or boots.

(I assume that it's obvious where this is going. Especially with all the pictures below feature cross-country skiing...)

At some time during the planning, when Constanze and Catte were sorting out where to rent skis and boots, there was a casual mention of "Christian can have the same as he had last time."

So instead of driving around and visiting new places, while Constanze and Catte were doing cross-country skiing, I was out there with them, doing cross-country skiing.

After some short lesson on the basics (amounting to "Keep your feet on the ground, the head above, don't cross the skis and try not to fall"), we were ready to go.

Our training ground on the first day was a big lake near where Kenneth and Catte live.

Lake near Umnaes

I knew this lake, as this was not only the place where my 'cross-country skiing lessons' started, but it was also the lake where Kenneth let me have a "photo day" with a dog sled team of sixteen dogs, back in 2020 that resulted in some amazing pictures.

Catte demonstrated how cross-country skiing should be done.

Catte skiing

And then Constanze tried to do the same.

Constanze skiing

Admittedly, it is grossly impolite to show off Constanze's lack of skiing skills.

But I was trying to enjoy the hour during which I was still better at cross-country skiing than she was as much as possible.

(That's mostly because of different attitudes to things. My attitude to cross-country skiing was, essentially, "see whether I can do 25 km on flat ground, and if that works, it'll be enough". Constanze is a lot more competitive. She prefers to do things properly, so I did expect her skills to quickly surpass mine. (Not like that's a high skill level to reach, I have to admit.))

Close to the lake there is also a track along some power lines, which have a bit of a downhill section and is a good place to learn proper braking skills with skis.

Braking lesson

Again, it was the same place where I was shown how to brake properly. Although for me, it was a basic skill I never quite managed. Once I was above a certain speed, I got too worried about falling and didn't dare turn my skis inwards. Which, of course, meant that I got even faster and got even more scared of doing anything but keep the skis pointing forward. So, depending on luck, this either meant falling at higher speed or arriving at the bottom of the decline still standing upright.

But at least it didn't worry me much that I wasn't good at braking, as this is a skill you don't need when going over a flat surface. And there was no other activity on skis that I was planning to do that would require the ability to brake either.

At least, I thought so.

[Though, if this was a video journal, it would probably be time for some "Twilight Zone" music in the background and a "Little did he know..." subtitle.]

But in any case, the weather was great, Constanze was picking up things fast and things went well.

Cross country skiing near Umnaes Cross country skiing near Umnaes

Everyone was having a good time and was happy.

Catte and Constanze smiling

Well, mostly.

Constanze exhausted

After all, cross-country skiing can be exhausting.

Following the 'practice day' on the lake, we drove to the cross-country trail near Tärnaby the next day.

Taernaby cross country trail

It is a fantastic trail, well maintained, with great views and a lot of variety.

Once again, we were lucky with the weather and had sunny skies. (At night, temperatures went down to around -30°C, but as were staying in the nice guest cabins in Umnäs, this didn't matter much.)

But the properly prepared cross-country track revealed a problem.

Constanze couldn't use it.

At least not the grooves.

Not in the groove Not in the groove

There had been a mis-communication when renting the skis, as there is "cross-country skiing" and cross-country skiing.

If you want to go on prepared cross-country skiing tracks (as we were doing), you use slim skis, which fit in the groove.

If you really want do go cross-country (so, essentially, off-trail, away from any prepared surface), you want wider skis, so you don't sink into the snow as much.

And Constanze had been given wider skis. So when she tried to get 'into the groove' there was friction on the side of the skis and smooth movement wasn't possible.

So she had a somewhat harder task on that day than I did (as my skis were slim). Especially as a beginner. If you use the prepared grooves, you mainly need to worry about moving forward and not falling over. There's no need to worry about where the skis are pointing, as the groove takes care of that.

But if you are on the corduroy snow outside the track, it is your task to make sure that the skis stay parallel and don't interfere with each other.

Despite that, we had a fun day. The cross-country track above Tärnaby is great, if you don't go all the way (which we didn't).

The reason for that is a steep downhill towards Tärnaby at the end of it. Not only was that way beyond our skill level (it's more suitable for people who do downhill skiing than for cross-country skiers), it's also hard to ski or walk up again afterwards.

So most people use the track at Tärnaby only one way and have someone drop them off at the starting point and then get picked up in Tärnaby later. Or they go to a marked point about 7 km along the track that (essentially) states "if you go beyond this point, it'll be hard to go back" and then ski back from there.

We didn't even go that far and had a lunch break after about 5 km and then decided to go back.

Another nice skiing day with everyone happy.

However, it turned out to be a bit tricky to document this.

At some point (with some gorgeous scenery in the background), we decided to take a group picture.

But we didn't have a camera with a sufficiently wide angle. So we didn't quite fit into Catte's phone picture.

Attempting a selfie

Then I had the idea that, while we didn't have a tripod or a selfie stick, we did have ski poles with us. And if we would hang an action camera on one of the ski poles and let it twirl around a bit, it might be possible to extract a screenshot from that video that might pass as a selfie.

Somehow that didn't quite work as expected. Especially since, due to the camera hanging down, there's little to see of the scenery behind us. And that scenery was the main reason for taking a picture there.

But at least we were having fun.

Attempting a selfie Attempting a selfie Attempting a selfie

A great day out, doing cross-country skiing in various forms and enjoying it.

And I was also looking forward to the bit at the end, where the track went a bit downhill towards the car park.

It isn't difficult to do (real downhill skiers will laugh at this), but once you are on that downhill path (especially if you don't know how (or don't dare) to brake properly), all you can do is to try to enjoy it and relax (the more you tighten up, the more likely you are to fall).

Tarnaby cross-country trail near car park

So, to a certain amount, it's more a test of commitment than one of skill. The more you go there with an "yeah, that'll probably be fine" attitude, the more likely it is that it will be.

Constanze had a much harder time along down that slope, as she had to go on the flattened snow to the right and started drifting off the flat surface and into the snowbank on the right (on the second day of cross-country skiing, you don't really know how to steer). To my (and Catte's) surprise, she didn't fall, but got back on track and made it to the car park skis down. Quite a good end to a good day.

Happiness all around.

The only gloom and doom atmosphere came from my side.

As the next day would be that day.

It started out as a joke.

At least I think so.

But maybe it was a total overestimation of my learning abilities. Or of my ambitions.

(All I had wanted was to find out whether I might be able to cover 25 km in a day with skis over a flat surface... And even that didn't matter anymore at this point.)

When we started with the week of trying to teach me cross-country skiing, Catte stated that her aim was to have me skiing behind a dog at the end of the week.

Which is, of course, a ridiculous idea.

An FAQ entry about skijoring is putting it into the most succinct form:

Q: Do I need to be an experienced skier?
A: Yes! Moving along at fast speeds while a dog is pulling you is not the time to be learning to ski.

I would like to point out again that the prerequisite for skijoring is that you are an experienced skier. (Especially someone who not only knows how to brake with skis, but is skilled enough to brake hard enough to make a pulling dog take notice.)

So when Catte casually mentioned "And tomorrow, we ski with the dogs.", I was terrified.

Not worried. Not concerned. Not anxious.

Properly scared.

There is a "Questions from the Audience" section on "An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer", where Neil Gaiman is asked, "What is the most genuinely frightening thing that has ever happened to you?" And he replies that he is not sure about that, but he remembers when he was most frightened in the last few months, possibly the last few years.

[It's not relevant here, but it turns out to be a bad case of stage fright when he had to read a story, which he had just written and hadn't been able to polish, in front of a live audience. While that may seem a bit pretentious at first, it makes more sense in context, as the story is about forgetting things and names and persons, written in a first person perspective. And, especially if read by the author, the audience might not be sure whether this is meant to be a story or a confession of the author. And at some point, the narrator is fishing for words he has forgotten. And an over-eager audience might try to be helpful and supply them, breaking the flow of the story. So it is indeed a story where more could go 'wrong' in a live presentation than a third person account of some fictional events.]

Anyway, back to where I was...

For me, the most frightened I have been in the last few months, possibly the last few years, was the night before skijoring.

Because I can't ski. Because cross-country ski bindings don't release the shoe on falls. Because I understand physics. Because I know sled dogs.

I already explained the "I can't ski" bit.

As for the bindings: Downhill skis have a release mechanism. When you fall, the ski will detach from your shoe, so you won't break a leg or twist the foot ankle. Cross-country ski-bindings don't do that. If you twist the skis around, the foot will be twisted as well.

I did fall over while being on the track at Tärnaby.

Nothing serious. I got my skis mixed up, stumbled and fell over. Got up again, Continued.

But the ski did twist my ankle a bit. It wasn't painful, but I could feel it all day. A reminder of the things that can go wrong.

Bindings are usually not much of a concern. Cross-country skiers go at a much lower speed than downhill skiers, so the forces involved are smaller. If you fall on a steep downhill section, you are likely to roll a couple of times, before you come to a stop (not a good thing with skis on your feet). If you fall over while cross-country skiing, you pretty much simply fall over and stop right there.

Unless, of course, there's a dog attached to you, pulling you forward and negating the "stop right there" part.

And when you get pulled ahead (and not standing on the sleds, but lying on the ground), with the skis twisting or getting stuck in vegetation, then simple physics and lever mechanics make sure that a small force at the tip or end of the ski will turn into a massive torque force in the middle of the skis. Which is not a good thing for feet or legs, which are attached to that. With a binding that won't open.

Like in a school physics book, I could almost 'see' little arrows showing the force strength and direction, as well as the massive torque strength around my ankle, twisting it off.

Levers are unpleasant things, when they are attached to your limbs.

And then there was the fact that a sled dog would be pulling me.

If you put a proper, trained sled dog into a harness, it will pull.

That is was sled dogs are bred for. This is what they are trained to to.

The idea of going 'walkies' and pulling not too strongly on the rope a bit is alien to them.

Telling a sled dog to 'take it easy' or 'walk slow' is like telling them to 'fly'.

From time to time, we had our 'dog parking spot' some distance away from the place where we spent the night (mostly in Ammarnäs). And some of the dogs were allowed to stay indoors. So we needed to go with them from the 'dog parking spot' to the house.

And that was always hard work, as the dogs were pulling ahead. And it was difficult to hold them back and keep walking, without falling over and being dragged behind the dogs.

That was while walking with my feet (which I can do quite well).

But the same thing on skis (with which I can't brake and where I have little control over anything) seemed like a recipe for disaster.

As a result, the whole "And tomorrow, we ski with the dogs." had gotten me more than a bit rattled.,

Of course, there's the obvious question: Couldn't I simply have said "No, thanks!" and not gone skijoring? The short, true and glib answer to that is: "What? And not experience what it is like to be on skis and pulled by a dog?" (It's a bit like the old joke about someone sweeping the floor in some theatre and complaining about all aspects of that. And when he is asked why he doesn't leave, he answers "What? And quit show business?". And this is a bit like this. All the fears and concerns have to compete with the risk of missing out on something interesting. Or, in other words "Be there or forever wonder."
But that is a cheap answer and, at best, half of it. The other half of it is that Catte didn't see a problem. She knows my (lack of) cross-country skiing skills. And I mentioned that I was worried about the whole thing and why. (Can't ski. Can't brake. Can't do corners.) And her reaction was "And tomorrow, we ski with the dogs.". Fine by me, then. Trust the guide. Which is more than a phrase, but something fundamental for this kind of vacations. You need to find a guide you trust. But the inverse is that then you should trust the guide. If you are on the Arctic Ocean and there's a fresh lead with about two centimeters of ice on it, and the guide says "Yeah, that'll probably hold.", then you ski on that ice. If a guide looks at an iceberg in Antarctica and goes "I think we could walk to the top of it.", you go up there. And if you ride a snowmobile in Austria and the guide says "The ski slope is closed for the day and they will freshly, groom it tomorrow morning anyway, so why don't we drive up there with the snowmobile?", you point the snowmobile towards the slope and thumb the throttle. Because if you doubt the advice of your guide and think you know better, then why do you have that guide in the first place?
So, if Catte (who I trust as a guide) thinks it'll be ok to put me on skis behind a dog, what kind of expertise do I have to offer to say "It'll all end in disaster!" and not do it? Yes, I can't ski, but she already knows that. And, ultimately, I walked away from the experience unhurt, so Catte was right.

Even with (or maybe because) of all of that going through my mind, I didn't sleep much that night.

(Although that might also have been because it was, again, cold outside (below - 30°C) and I didn't want the cabin to be freezing cold the next morning, so I put a new log or two into the oven every hour or so, which presumably didn't help my sleep pattern.)

After all these worries, the experience itself was somewhat anticlimatic.

About 10 seconds of pure terror, 20 seconds of pure bliss and then half an hour of "What? Seriously?"

My 'pulling dog' was going to be Albus.


Albus (not surprisingly) is from the 'Potter' litter. (Harry, Luna and Albus)

I had been out on dog sledding tours together with Albus, though he usually wasn't on my team.

In 2018, we only had Harry (in my team) and Luna (in Catte's team) with us. (Looking at the pictures from 2018, it looks like Albus wasn't with us on the trip due to a shoulder injury.)

In 2019, the 'Potters' were distributed over three teams. Constanze got Luna, Koen had Albus and Harry was in my team again.

Then, in 2020, I had the full set in my team. Harry, Luna and Albus, all in front of my sled.

In 2021, Harry was again the only one of the three in front of my sled. (I am not even sure whether Albus was with us on that tour. There's a 'team list' for that trip, that lists him as part of the third (client) team, but as it was only me and Chris as clients on that tour, I don't know whether Chris had the team labelled "1" or the one labeled "3". Mine was clearly "2", while Kenneth's team was clearly marked as "Kenneth".)

But even if I have only been on two tours together with Albus (with only one having in my team on one of them), I have seen him running enthusiastically over more than 500 km of all kinds of snow and up and down all sorts of inclines and declines.

That dog can run. That dog will run.

He's a nice and friendly dog. And once he has pulled you into a tree and broken both your legs, he will probably turn around, snuggle down with you and hope for a belly rub.

I hadn't expected to see Albus in Umnäs.

After they gave up their dogsledding business, all of their dogs, except for a few 'house and hunting dogs' had been given to new owners. Albus was now living in Stockholm, with one of Catte's daughters.

Albus just happened to be staying (for a number of reasons) in Umnäs for a couple of weeks.

So, on the next morning, Catte and I, together with the dogs Dromio (named after a character from Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors) and Albus went to go skijoring.

Constanze had hurt her hand the previous day and couldn't grasp a ski pole, so she remained at the cabin.

We drove to the cross-country trail in Slussfors.

It's a good trail, which I knew from the previous year.

The trail is a bit more than two kilometers long and flat.

It has only a few straight sections. Most of the trail winds in curves back and forth, to make the best use of the limited area for this trail. But the curves are mostly gentle, so the trail doesn't require much skill to ski on. At least if not pulled by a dog.

So we got everything ready, but me on skis, wrapped a skijoring belt around me and attached Albus to it.

Albus ready to go

And it was time to go.

I handed my little action camera to Catte. I would have other things to worry about than taking pictures. And I would need my hands firmly on the ski poles.

At that point, I fully expected a disastrous crash and fall after ten meters at best and thought, in best documentary film style thinking, if you crash, at least do it on camera.

The idea was that Catte would go ahead, I would follow (i.e. Albus would follow and I would be dragged along) and she would turn around and point the camera in my direction.

So Dromio went off at speed and Albus started running behind, with me trying not to fall over.

As the first 50 meters or so were in a straight line. That, to my surprise, worked. We were going at some speed and it was terrifying, as I could see the next corner coming up and I knew that this would be the speed with which I would crash at the corner.

It was a lot of speed.

And the trees at that corner didn't look soft and inviting either.

Ever optimistic, Catte, pulled by Dromio, had gone to the corner, stopped and tried to point the camera towards me.

(Optimistic, because I hadn't expected to be on skis that long. My assumption was that the moment Albus started running, I would fall over and lie there right at the start.)

But I was still standing upright and moving fast towards the corner.

Trying to point the camera at me was one reason for stopping at the corner. But the other reason was a safety thing. While sled dogs like to run, they usually don't run into people (or things). If the sled ahead of your dog team stops, your dogs at least consider stopping. (Well, mostly they try to walk around the sled ahead, but at least they slow down for that.) So the assumption was that, with Catte standing at the corner, Albus would stop when reaching her. That (kind of) worked. Albus happily ran up to Catte (possibly expecting a belly rub) and stopped. It didn't reduce my speed much, though (and no braking skills, remember?). And now Catte, Albus and Dromio were standing in the way. So instead of crashing when going around the corner, I crashed by running into them. (Catte hadn't even got around to turning on the camera, so no video of that.)

But it was a light crash, properly falling over sideways into the snow, with the skis still parallel and out of the snow, so no broken bones or twisted joints.

After getting up and setting everything up properly again, it was time for the next section. Mostly straight, followed by some wide and gentle curves.

Catte and Dromio went ahead. Albus ran after them. And I tried not to fall.

And suddenly, for no reason at all, it was an exhilarating experience. (Well, maybe it helped that I had already fallen and not been hurt.)

I really enjoyed the next 20 seconds or so.

A lot.

The 'bungee' chord between me and Albus made sure that I wasn't jerked around by the dogs movements, but had a strong and steady pull I could adjust to. There weren't any challenging parts of the track (like tight corners) for a while, my skis were guided by the groves. So all I needed to do was to stand there and watch the dog ahead and the scenery whooshing by.

Almost like dog sledding, in fact.

I think that two things helped a lot with that.

First, I didn't properly tie my boots.

When cross-country skiing, you don't lift your feet. What I do is mostly to shuffle along. And even if you do it properly (like Catte), you only bend your knee and lift the heel upwards. But generally you don't lift your feet (as they are attached to the skis and you want those to remain on the ground (and yes, there are different cross-country skiing styles, among them skate-skiing, where you do lift the skis up from the ground, but that is not relevant here).

While it is important that the boot is tight enough that you can move the ski back and forth, the rest doesn't matter.

Hence I kept the shoelaces loose, so I could slip in and out of the boots.

The reasoning behind that was that, in case of a crash, I could easily pull out my foot from the boot and a fall might not twist my foot or my leg, but simply pull the boot of.

Ultimately, I am not sure how much that would have helped (when I fell over at the first corner, the boots and skis remained on my feet). But I was worried a lot less. And my mental image of the ski being a lever breaking my leg or one twisting my foot around, became more the image of a ski pulling off my boot. Which is a great deal less scary.

Another thing that suddenly helped was to ignore the dog and thinking about a ski lift instead.

I had been worried all day (and all the previous night) about being pulled by a sled dog, as I have a rather good idea of the pulling power of a sled dog. Which had also been impressively demonstrated during a dog sled tour in Finland, when I crashed a sled into a tree and broke the bow. Admittedly, that was achieved by six dogs instead of one, but they did have to pull the sled as well. And, although I am not willing to test that, the bow of a dog sled is presumably stronger than any of my leg bones.

The whole idea of being pulled by a sled dog (while not standing on a sled and having proper brakes available) scared me.

And, for some reason, the thought occurred to me, that this is probably similar to being on one of those ski lifts, that are called 'surface lifts', where you grab a handle with your hands or put some sort of platter between your legs and get pulled up a hill.

Admittedly, they are different from skijoring in almosy all important aspects. They go slow. And if there's an issue, you can let go of the handle or slide off the platter, It's not as if you are tied to the ski lift with a fixed rope. That would be insane...

But the point is - I am not worried about ski lifts.

Of course, I have never been on one of those 'surface lifts', as they are only suitable for skiers and snowboarders. The only ski lifts I have been on were chairlifts.

Unlike skijoring, which scared me, I didn't have any preconceived notions about ski lifts. (Possibly because the thought only occurred to me while being pulled along by Albus, so I didn't have time for any deep considerations.)

Thinking of being pulled along by a dog to being quite similar to being pulled by a ski lift (even though I have no idea at all what that would be like) somehow stopped making it feel scary. And suddenly it was a lot of fun.

After all, it meant doing cross-country skiing and somebody else did all the work for you.

I only had to stay upright and enjoy it.

Best thing in the world!

For about 20 seconds.

And then the unexpected happened.

Albus, the "I'll easily pull you and your sled over a mountain range and then for another 70 km. But I expect a belly rub for this" trained sled dog, stopped running and started walking.

Proper, city dog, 'walk in the park' kind of walking.

So instead of this unstoppable canine engine in front of me, I was now doing regular cross-country skiing, propelling myself forward, with some minor assistance by Albus.

To illustrate this - this is the speed at which Catte and Dromio were usually moving:

Dromio pulling Catte

Which was also the speed at which Albus was pulling me for about 30 seconds in total.

And that was the speed at which Albus and I were moving for the rest of the day:

Albus pulling me

A speed that didn't even cause me any difficulties.

And, yes, both videos are at the same speed. Dromio is running like that.

And that was my "we ski with the dogs" experience.

Scared all night, terrified for 10 seconds, exhilarated for 20 seconds and then going walkies with a sled dog (a sled dog!) around the track three times.

Albus pulling me Albus pulling me

Albus even managed to get entangled in the tow rope. And I needed to ski up to him and free his leg.

Albus getting stuck

Sled dogs usually (except for some special situations) know how to get themselves out tow and tug ropes. Otherwise you'd need to stop the sled every five minutes or so. A sled dog needing help with a single rope (not even wrapped around the leg) is an unexpected sight. (Yes, on a dog sled, the tow line is lower than the one used here, which is attached to my belt. But still...)

When we went to the barbecue place near the cross-country track to have lunch, Albus seemed exhausted.

Albus resting

Seems like he really is a 'retired sled dog' now and has adjusted well to city life in Stockholm.

Also, as Kenneth explained during dinner that evening: "Why do you think did we train the sled dogs all autumn for the sledding season?"

So that was the last full day in Umnäs.

Instead of driving around and being lazy (while Constanze learned cross-country skiing), I had been out on skis for three days and didn't move the car even once. (Although, technically, I drove the car for about two meters. As it had been cold at night, we wondered whether the car would start when we needed to go to the airport or whether it would be better to use a motor heater in the night. The car started without a problem and I drove it a meter back and forward again, before shutting it down.)

And I even got to experience skijoring!

After that, all that was left to do was to drive to the airport in Hemavan the next day, return the rented ski equipment and the rented car and fly down to Stockholm. And then fly home the following morning.

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