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Meet the Svalbard Guide!

Meet the Svalbard Guide!

Get Arctic inside tips from musher Anja Åse Wied

Meet the Svalbard Guide - Anja Åse Wied

Dog sledding in Svalbard is an unforgettable experience, regardless of the season. It’s one of the most popular activities in Svalbard, among locals and visitors alike. With our four-legged friends as a motor, you experience the Arctic landscape in a peaceful and beautiful way.

Anja Åse Wied is a guide and musher (sled dog driver) at Arctic Husky Travellers. She came to Svalbard in 2016 to take the one-year Arctic Nature Guide programme before she started working in Longyearbyen’s smallest commercial kennel. Like so many others, Anja is convinced that Svalbard is best experienced behind wagging dog tails.

Now, in this exclusive interview, she shares her tips and experiences with you!

What did you think when you landed in Longyearbyen for the first time?
The first time I came to Longyearbyen, I was very impressed by the nature. The surroundings here are completely unique. The nature is magnificent, untouched and extremely exposed. I felt quite small and humble in the nature here – and I still do, even though I have lived here for several years.

Why did you want to work as a dog sledding guide, and what do you think are the biggest challenges and joys of your job?
I have always loved animals and going on treks. When I moved to Svalbard, partly by coincidence I got to know the dogs at Arctic Husky Travellers and quickly became very fond of the dogs and the wonderful way to travel in the nature. Our 53 dogs are now my best friends and I don’t want to do without any one of them.

The nicest thing about working as a guide is that I can share my joy of dog sledding and Svalbard’s nature with guests from all over the world. The biggest challenge is probably going on a trip with many different four-legged individuals, each with their individual considerations, at the same time as you need to take the guests into consideration.

What is important for guests to think about before booking a dog sledding trip? And is there anything the guests are surprised about along the way?
The most important thing to bear in mind is that, as a guest, you help steer the working day for the dogs. We trust the guests and give them a great deal of responsibility, so consequently we want the guests to understand that they must respect the guidelines we provide in order to ensure the safety of the dogs and the guests.

The guests are often surprised to discover that all our dogs are social, friendly and kind. The dogs have an innate passion to go on sledding trips and, since they live the life they are created for, they are happy and content.

Dog sledding is a year-round activity. What is your favourite season?
The best time of year is in February. It’s just before the light returns and the sun is just below the horizon. The light from the sun is reflected on the white snow and, after several months of darkness, the landscape is lit up by pastel shades of pink, purple and blue. This is a magical period and it’s like living in a fairytale land!
 
Can you go on a dog sledding trip even if you are not used to dogs?
Yes, of course! If you want to go on a trip in the wilderness and you like animals, you should go on a dog sledding trip!

What is the greatest nature-based experience you have had in Svalbard?
In May, we hunt ringed seals with the dogs on the sea ice. Going seal hunting with the dogs is fun for people and dogs alike. The dogs lead us to the seals and the seals are more interested in the dogs than the hunter. The cooperation between the dogs, the nature and animal life bring me closer to nature. Being able to harvest from nature together with the dogs is probably one of the greatest nature-based experiences I have had in Svalbard. As both the dogs and I eat meat, I like being able to eat meat from animals that I know have had a natural life in the sea around Svalbard. 

Can you tell us your most amazing polar bear story?
One day last autumn, a female polar bear with two cubs decided to lie down to rest right by the road between Longyearbyen and our kennel. The road was blocked so that the polar bears were not disturbed, and we had no idea when we could get from the kennel to Longyearbyen. We waited in suspense and didn’t know which way they would move and if they would visit our kennel which was only a couple of kilometres away.

What is the most difficult question a tourist has asked you? 
Before we set off on a dog sledding trip, all the dogs run around the dog yard. After I have called them all to me, one by one, and attached them to the gang line, I have been asked a few times if the dogs really have names and if I can tell them apart? When that happens, I don’t quite know what to answer ...

Do you have an insider tip of what to do in Longyearbyen?
Go on a one-day dog sledding trip to the ice cave in the Scott Turner Glacier! Svalbard is amazing and offers many nice nature-based experiences all year round. In Longyearbyen, you are on the doorstep of the wilderness and naturally I think the best way to experience the wilderness is by dog sled.

The dogs at Arctic Husky Travellers are elite athletes who have both to the North Pole and completed the world’s longest sled dog race, Iditarod. It’s hard to choose a favourite among the dogs, but which of them has the most exciting story, do you think?
Foxi is the smallest and the smartest of the dogs. Foxi is the one who always leads the dogs out on new adventures and is the one who makes the best decisions. She is a slightly sensitive and much-loved lady who chooses her friends carefully, and she needs all the positive feedback she deserves – and that’s a lot!

In the summertime, we train the dogs on the road using wagons on wheels. One autumn day we were on a training trip with many dogs running in front of the car. Suddenly, the brand-new set of lines broke and 14 of the dogs disappeared off the road. The road down from the kennel is steep and losing a dog team is a disaster and every musher’s nightmare! But luckily the dogs didn’t get all the way down to the main road before Foxi managed to turn the entire dog team around, did a loop on the tundra and then led the dogs safely back to the kennel. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in fairy tales!

In 2014, when my boss and the dogs were training for Iditarod, Foxi also got the chance to show her skills and she was chosen as the lead dog in the 1600 km long Iditarod race. Naturally, she was also the main lead dog on the subsequent trip to the North Pole.

Without Foxi in the kennel, Arctic Husky Travellers wouldn’t be the same!

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