© Station de ski Orcières 1850, vallée du Champsaur, Hautes-Alpes; 05 Village nordique de Williwaw, partez pour une balade à la tête d’un attelage, ou dans le traîneau du meneur de chien (musher) pour glisser sur les pentes douces des haut plateaux d’altitudes de Rocherousse. | Bertrand Bodin
Experience

Become a musher

The dog sled ride in the Alps… A dream come true! Learn how to mushing and follow us on a sled dog trip in the Alps!

For a morning, I leave Dad with the children and I go to realize one of my biggest dreams: to sled dog in the Alps. Head to Champoléon in the Hautes-Alpes to meet Philippe, a musher known for years on the Rocherousse plateau in the Orcières Merlette resort!

Meet Philippe, musher and passionate

Arrived in front of the Auberge des Ecrins in Champoléon, Philippe warmly welcomes me, accompanied by his magnificent dogs! He shares his passion with me, which has animated him for several years … I learned that mushing is an important sport in the Alps: it is in the Valgaudemar that you can see the best teams in France during the Valgaude Traineau! Kart, quad, bike … Dogs can tow different types of gear! For us, it will be the sled!

Let’s go ! We are starting to equip ourselves for the sleigh ride in the Alps! Before leaving, Philippe introduces me to his little tribe of Siberian huskies (6 in total!) And gives me a brief overview of the best practices to adopt. For the harness, the rules are strict: harness, draft lines, shock absorbers … It’s quite a ritual to have. To my surprise, the dogs are overexcited, jump everywhere, bite the ground: It’s “will to go”, Philippe explains to me! In other words, “the desire to go” essential before leaving!

Learn about the practices of mushing in the Alps

For the position of the dogs? Nothing is left to chance: everyone plays a very specific role in the team. Those in the lead are the ones who listen the most to the musher and will help guide the rest of the team. They must be able to take any turn, know how to slow down and ignore obstacles in their path … while keeping the center line tight! Just that !

The dogs closest to the sled are the strongest and most powerful of the group: they have more weight to pull and allow the sled to start. In the center, Philippe places the “followers” (those who support and assist the leaders) as well as those who have never fired a device before. “The other dogs around will teach them how to do it,” he explains. What a discovery!

Dogs respond with a finger and an eye! To see it is incredible, but to live it is absolutely magical.

Take a dog sled ride at the gates of the Ecrins massif

Coupling finished, we climb on our sleds … And the dogs are on the alert! At the signal, that’s it, the machine sets off with a bang for a moment of pure adrenaline for the musher.

At the gates of the Ecrins massif, we head towards Les Borels and the hamlet of Baumes. While handling the sled requires great concentration from the pilot, we still take the opportunity to look up and admire the scenery from another world.

Philippe breaks through the silence of the mountains by giving me some tips to help me drive sled dogs. The orders to know? “Go on !” “Before !” “Paw !” “Head!” … Dogs respond with finger and eye! To see it is incredible, but to live it is absolutely magical.

Return to the hostel with lots of memories

After this unforgettable morning sled dog in the Alps, we return to the hostel to take the time to congratulate the dogs, give them a drink and check their paws. Now it’s up to us to regain our strength! Head for the restaurant of the inn where Laurent, the owner, offers us to taste one of the traditional specialties of Valgaudemar: donkey’s ears (wild spinach and lasagna gratin).

Before leaving, Philippe gives me an appointment at the next Valgaude Traineau! In a few words, it is THE reference in La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar to discover the practice of dog sledding and ski-joering (a skier pulled by a dog). We will come back with the children!

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