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(2017 - Fall Issue)


The crisp morning air nips at Matt Parr’s nose as he kneels on the snowy ground to give his Bear a hug.

Curled up in a ball for a snooze, the fluffy Siberian husky casually accepts his cuddles as Parr introduces the rest of his furry rescue family, lying on a long bed of straw nestled in the Columbia Valley near Golden, B.C.

Paris, a lively Alaskan husky with electric hazel eyes, greets him with an enthusiastic hug, while big Roy continues to shy away, unsure of everyone.

“All the dogs have their quirks. They’re all really friendly with people, other than Roy,” says Parr, who’s now in his third season of operating Golden Dog Sled Adventures. “Someone said the best therapist has four legs and I totally agree. I have 14 of the best therapists.”

All is calm in the peaceful mountain setting until the harnesses appear and the dogs are hooked into position to pull the two sleds that will carry two passengers and a guide. Some squeal like children running wildly through a playground. Others repeatedly jump as though they have springs in their legs.


“Are you ready?” asks my guide Amanda, as she hops onto the back of the sled to mush the team.

I can feel the dogs’ energy as they anxiously wait to be set free. The excitement also builds inside me, wondering how fast the dogs will set the pace.

With one simple command, the team takes off like an Olympic sprinter, the sled bouncing wildly along the packed track.

“Hat! Hat!” yells Amanda, instructing the team to turn left, then slows the pace to a rapid trot across the flat terrain through a snowy meadow. The roar of barking dogs is replaced by the sound of paws lightly fluttering across the snow.

We stop frequently to learn tidbits about the area and untangle the dogs. Soon it’s my turn to experience the thrill of mushing under the guidance of Amanda as she sits in the sled.

After a few minutes on the back of the sled, it’s easy to see why Parr instantly became hooked on the sport when he gave it a whirl while working as a snowshoe guide in Whistler.

“Just the excitement of having a pack of dogs pulling you and the amount of power they output is incredible. I love the dogs, I love dog sledding, I love being in the woods with nature,” said Parr, noting the dogs can pull 340 kilograms on the sled. The fastest he’s ever gone with a six-dog team is 40 kilometres/hour. Getting them to stop is the biggest challenge.

“They always want to go. They’ve pulled out those ice hooks several times and it’s caught us on the legs. They love to run.”

Dog sledding is among the long list of winter adventures awaiting visitors to Golden—a laid-back town of approximately 4,000 people surrounded by mountains capped with sparkling snow. It’s close to six national parks, two mountain ranges and two rivers known for wild whitewater rafting. For outdoor lovers, Golden is a hidden jewel that takes activities to the next level.


Outside town there’s another fluffy bear, but this one isn’t waiting for a cuddle. Unaware of the skiers whizzing by outside his den at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Boo the grizzly bear is fast asleep, awakening every few weeks to toss and turn.

Occasionally he sticks his nose outside to smell whether the winter air has turned to spring. And when it does, Boo takes full advantage of living on one of the steepest vertical terrains in North America.

“Each spring we watch Boo repeatedly climb the snowy open-face slope in his habitat, then somersault into the snow taking up speed as he slides his way underneath the gondola line, often paddling and pushing his way down to go even faster,” said Nicole Gagnon, who’s looked after Boo for the last five years.

“Boo has a big personality. Our staff can always tell when Boo is about to bluff charge someone and rarely do we warn visitors as we take the opportunity to explain Boo’s behaviour. Sometimes it’s sheer amusement and other times it’s because people are being bothersome for him.”

Few ski resorts can say they have the largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat in the world, but the nine-hectare Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge (enclosed by an electric fence) is Boo’s home.

The 260-kilogram bear was born in the wild, but became orphaned with his brother Cari when their mother was shot and killed by a poacher. Instead of being euthanized, the cubs were given a second lease on life and a new home at Kicking Horse where they hunt, play, forage and explore like their wild cousins, providing a unique opportunity for grizzly bear research and visitors. Cari, however, never awoke from his first winter dormancy and died from a spontaneous twist of his intestines.


Down the road from Boo’s home, one will likely find Jane Dolinski, gliding with ease along the perfectly groomed trails of the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre on her cross-country skis.

Boasting 33 kilometres of trails for all abilities, the nordic centre is mainly run by volunteers and has hosted some big events over the years, including the 2012 Canadian Nordic Masters. Several snowshoe trails have been added in recent years to provide families a peaceful walk through the woods.

After skiing 10 kilometres with Dolinski through some challenging but scenic terrain, I drag myself into the lodge, my poor little legs struggling to cope with what I’ve just done. 

I question whether I’ll be able to strap on a snowboard for the afternoon and slide gracefully down a steep mountain in one piece. For Dolinski, however, the cross-country ski outing is part of her weekly routine.

“It’s a wonderful feeling of fitness and being in nature and it’s kind of a meditative thing, too. You get into the zone and it just takes the stress away,” says Dolinski, who’s been cross-country skiing for about 40 years and also teaches kids. “Teaching is what partly maintains my enthusiasm for skiing. Kids are just so much fun.”

Travel Planner

While Golden is a playground for outdoor lovers, for a town of its size, it also has an impressive dining scene as well as a craft brewery serving a wide range of beers. The Island Restaurant and Eleven 22 both have interesting menus packed with flavourful, healthy food. For those who want a truly unique dining experience outside of a restaurant, get Whitetooth Mountain Bistro to cater a three-course dinner in one of the luxurious mountain chalets available for rent at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

For more information, visit:

Tourism Golden:

Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre:

Golden Dog Sled Adventures:

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort:

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