Mild Winter, Wild Adventure. Two Dog Sled Experts Chime In

Dog sledding in Michigan is a wild winter adventure. The hot breath of the pack fogs the crisp winter air as they pull you with focused determination across the glistening landscape. While the winter weather of 2015 has been mild, two dog sledding experts share what you can look forward to when the snow finally sticks and how these dogs are training in the meantime.

Photo Courtesy of Gena Dewey

Photo Courtesy of Gina Dewey

Gina Dewey – Shemhadar Dog Sled Adventures

When we tell people we’re dog sledders, they’re always amazed to find out that there are actually races in Michigan.  Not only that, but people are often surprised they can find a dog sled race in one of three places each weekend of January and February.  As a recreational musher, I am thrilled to find sporting events that I can race or partake in and also gather with other mushers who love the unique sport. And although I am a dog sledding enthusiast, I’ve heard from many spectators that just watching these races is more fun than they could have ever imagined.

The two main clubs in Michigan for dog sledding are M.U.S.H. (Mid Union Sled Haulers and G.L.S.D.A. (Great Lakes Sled Dog Association). While both are open to beginning and recreational mushers, G.L.S.D.A. also invites the professional musher and races for a prize.  Our family of mushers began with M.U.S.H. and thought that we would eventually switch to faster and longer races, but after 12 years, have been content each season to race with M.U.S.H. and enjoy our trophies of a shirt or hat.

Dog sledding is a sport that can be challenging in many ways.  One of the first things our family saw when we started was the necessity of team work.  We need each other to get the dogs ready, get them to the starting shoot and bring them back to the trailer at the finish. We have all learned this valuable lesson, as we realized how important this lesson is to children and decided it was worth the time, money and effort for our whole family to race.

While learning these lessons, we have enjoyed each season competing with our dogs and making memories as a family.  Our challenge to you is to find a race to attend this winter and make a memory of your own!

Photo Courtesy of Gena Dewey

Photo Courtesy of Gina Dewey

Tasha Stielstra – Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Racing and Adventures

During this time of year, I usually find myself writing about our sled dogs heading down snow covered trails in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  But, as everyone knows, this has been a tough start to the winter season for all of us in the “snow business”.   Well, luckily dogs don’t check the forecast and every day is a great day to go for a run—snow or no snow!

When we don’t have snow, we have the dogs pull an ATV/four wheeler.  The dogs don’t care what they are hooked to as long as they get to pull and run.  We have even done a few “El Niño” tours this December where our guests ride with the sled dogs via ATV instead of dog sled.  And though we prefer snow, people still get to work with the dogs, learn how we train them, and get to have a taste of real dog power as 16 sled dogs pull them down the trail.

The scenery is still beautiful, the dogs still happy and the hot chocolate – delicious!  It’s just not as white as any of us would expect in mid-December in Upper Michigan.  But hey, aren’t dogs are color blind?!

It may even sound strange, but if we aren’t going to have at least 6-8 inches of snow on the ground to use a dog sled, then we like the temperatures to be stay well above freezing so that the ground stays softer and isn’t frozen; jumbled dirt and ice can really damage a sled dogs’ feet.  So in that respect, December was still pretty good for training “ATV” dogs.

Photo Courtesy of Tasha Stielstra

Photo Courtesy of Tasha Stielstra

We are still preparing two competitive race teams this year for two of the toughest sled dog races in the world.  For the first time in history, a sled dog kennel from the lower 48-states (proudly from Michigan) will have both a team in the 1000 mile Yukon Quest (run by our race team member Laura Neese) and a team in the 1000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (run by kennel owner Ed Stielstra).  The fickle weather has provided great preparation for these endurance races as there are plenty of situations where there is minimal snow and tough terrain along the 1000 mile route.

While operating a winter-based tourism business has made me a little nervous thus far, I’m optimistic that winter will come and our memories of green trails will be long forgotten as our guests are whisked away by a team of sled dogs on a magical winter ride.  I’ve been in the winter tourism business for over fifteen years and I’ve learned that there is only one thing we can’t control: the weather.  So in the meantime we control what we can; we keep the smiles on our dog’s faces, keep our spirits high and keep promoting what we love best about this state: Pure Michigan Winters!

Have you ever taken part in a dog sled adventure in Michigan? Share with us below!

Professional Gina Picture


Gina Dewey and family own Shemhadar Dog Sled Adventures in Cadillac.  We are recreational mushers, who love to race, but also like to share our love for the sport, by giving tours at our kennel.  



IMG_0037Tasha Stielstra is co-owner of Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Racing and Adventures in McMillan, MI.  Her husband, Ed is a 7-time Iditarod finisher.  They own nearly 160 Alaskan Huskies and two small children, Fern and Nate.  Tasha does the marketing and managing of their touring business, while Ed manages and races with their competitive racing team.  Check out their website and Facebook page!



From Our Fans: 25 Unforgettable Pure Michigan Snow Day Memories

We asked our fans to show us what they’ve been up to this winter, and we had a blast taking a look at the fantastic snow day memories that they’ve made so far. From dog sledding to snowboarding, snowshoe hiking and more, it’s easy to see that there are countless ways to spend the ultimate snow day in Pure Michigan.

There’s still plenty of winter left! Take a look at these 25 unforgettable Pure Michigan snow day memories and make plans to get out and explore for yourself.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram! For more on planning a Pure Michigan winter outing, visit

Cure Your Cabin Fever! Five Reasons to Take a Vacation Day and Head Outside

According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. workers only use 77 percent of their paid time off, resulting in nearly 169 million forfeited vacation days and $52.4 billion in lost benefits! Luckily, PTO days can be used any time during the year, and a quick winter trip is sure to cure any cold-weather blues. Here are six reasons to use those vacation days and explore what a winter day in Pure Michigan has to offer.


1. There’s plenty of fresh powder! 

With more than 51 ski areas, 260 chairlifts, 1,000 runs, 50 terrain parks and an annual snowfall of more than 100 inches, Michigan offers some of the best ski and snowboarding slopes you can find in the Midwest. In-state resorts like Boyne Mountain Resort and Crystal Mountain are perfect for weekend away to shred some fresh powder or even take your very first lesson. Many resorts offer tubing and sledding fun, too!

2. Wineries are less crowded in the winter.

Take a winter winery tour! Many think that all Michigan wineries hibernate during the winter season, but some stay open all year long  for you to enjoy! One popular winter activity among foodies is to warm up with a glass of wine/small bites from a trio of wineries along a 7.5-mile ski and snowshoe path on the Leelanau Peninsula. The only question is, do you prefer red or white?

3. Trying something new can be thrilling!

Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is a wild winter adventure. The hot breath of the huskie pack fogs the crisp winter air as they pull you with focused determination across the glistening landscape. Imagine you’re racing against another team, over the same frozen terrain that explorers did long ago! Dog sledding is a fun activity for the whole family and can create memories that last a lifetime.


Ice Climbing
One of winter’s newest silent sports, Ice climbing, combines challenge and adventure. With ropes and harnesses, ascend stunning icefalls, cliffs and rock slabs, all waiting to be conquered. Swing your axe into the ice, hold on tight and inch your way up the frozen ladder. Be one of the first people to know to say you climbed a frozen waterfall!

Ice Luge
Did you know that one of lonely three luge tracks in the United States can be found right here in Michigan? Located near the shores of Lake Michigan in the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, you’ll be able to fly down the track just like the winter Olympians do.

4. There’s always time for quality time.

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo courtesy of Zehnder’s

Romantic Getaways
Sweep your sweetie away on a romantic getaway. You don’t have to go far to find a perfect weekend getaway with that special someone in your life. Some romantic packages include champagne dinners, in-room Jacuzzi’s and wine tastings while others let you relax with spa treatments or special in-room amenities. There’s no wrong choice when surprising a loved one with a romantic getaway in Michigan.

Family Fun
If you’re experiencing some cabin fever, we bet the kids are too! Family-friendly waterparks can be found all over the state, just waiting to wash away the norm. Whether you splash in the shallows with the little ones, or race each other for bragging rights down the twisting water slides, nothing brings families closer together than a Pure Michigan water park adventure. 

Ice Fishing5. The fish still bite during the winter. 

During the winter, Michigan’s four Great Lakes, more than 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams provide anglers with the perfect location to ice fish for bluegill, perch, pike and walleye. Whether you’re a master angler or don’t quite know your way around a reel yet, fishing in Michigan is fun for everyone. Make sure to mark Free Fishing Weekend (Feb.14-15) on your calendar and check out our Winter Angler’s Ultimate Packing List before hitting the ice!

How would you spend a winter day off in Pure Michigan? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit