Article from the Daily Inter Lake March 14, 2002...

Inter Lake Advertising Writer

Although Martin Buser has completed this year's Iditarod in record time, it's not too late for you to experience your own Dog Sled Adventure right here in the Flathead Valley.
  With the wind in my face, it was hard not to recall such childhood heroes as Jack London's The Malamute Kid and Sitka Charlie. The air was cold and crisp, yet I sat warmly bundled in the dog sled, smoothly cruising through Stillwater State Forest 20 miles northwest of Whitefish. The sound of the sled's runners gliding through the freshly fallen powder was broken only by the occasional "I-eep! Good dogs!" as the driver, Jeff Ulsamer, called encouragement to the team of 10 trotting ahead.
  The powder was deep that morning and it was up to our team to cut the trail for the two sleds behind. Ulsamer would occasionally rest the team along the 12-mile trail but the dogs would only sit for a minute - maybe less - before they'd jump against their lines, jerking the sled in their excitement. Pulling is in their blood. "Let's go Ulsamer would call, and we were off again, through field and forest on a dog sled adventure. "I-eeep! Good dogs!"
  Ulsamer is just what you'd expect: a bearded bruin of a man with a growling voice betrayed only by his warm honest smile. A man who loves what he does, he began mushing 22 years ago while living in Steamboat Springs, Colo. It's easy to see that he has a fierce love and respect for his dogs.
 "My first dog and I had learned the sport of skijoring one winter," Ulsamer said. "While my friends were skiing the slopes,

   I was out with a broken leg. Actually both legs were in a cast but that's a story for another day." Ulsamer had rescued his first dog from an animal shelter, and his second and his third. Before long he had a team of nine dogs.

  "I met a guy from Alaska looking for a place to give dog-sled rides. After talking him into staying, I became his apprentice. I started my own place the following year."
  After about 11 years in Steamboat Springs, Ulsamer decided it was time for a change in scenery. "The area had gotten too crowded, it was losing its sense of community. I'd passed through Whitefish years ago and remembered that I had really liked the area so I packed up my dogs and gear and hit the highway."
  By then Ulsamer's pack had grown to more than 40 dogs. Some rescued from shelters others specially bred from a mix of Husky, German shepherd, greyhound and other breeds for their big heart and lungs, long legs and eager attitude.
  "For the most part they're mutts," said Ulsamer. "Pure breeds tend to be less hearty," he said. "But almost any dog can be trained to pull."
  Today, Ulsamer has 80 dogs, of which 10 are retired and 20 more are nearing retirement and run only once a day. Ulsamer and the three drivers that work for him will run the tail about 500 times each winter. The equivalent to about five full-length Iditarods. "Each run on the trail is one one-hundredth of the Iditidrod," said Ulsamer. Because his dogs are winter work dogs, Ulsamer feeds them large frozen blocks of ground meat and fish. Despite the high fat and protein diet, all his dogs are in exceptional shape. Ulsamer said

"Gliding through the freshly fallen powder"


A team of 10 working sled dogs takes a brief rest while retired dog Uno scouts the trail ahead.

It's not uncommon for his dogs to live past 20 years.
  As I race with Ulsamer on my own leg of the journey - Uno one of the retired dogs - runs freely ahead, scouting on and off the trail following wolf and other wildlife tracks through the woods. But the dogs online stay focused and undistracted by the visible tracks of other animals; keep their noses to the trail ahead.
  "Stay gee," Ulsamer calls to Cowboy and Hurricane, our lead dogs, directing them to follow the trail to the right as it forks. Blizzard and Twister, the swing dogs - Ulu, Indy, Owly and Hawkeye - to keep the momentum going and the wheel dogs Cooper and Cheyenne, to pull the sled smoothly around. Each of the 10 dogs can easily pull its own weight, which means a driver, two adult passengers and a sled weighing about 120 pounds is light work for this team.
  After more than an hour we pull back into camp. The dogs are served hot meat broth for their work, although often it seemed like play to them, and I'm treated to hot cocoa and fresh oatmeal cookies in the lodge.
Flathead Living Article
From Trailer to Resued Dogs


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