We had done a little messing around with borrowed sleds, just a few short runs with Rubi and Denali. After Holly arrived we wanted to do more. Without our own sled, we were limited, just by logistics of getting together with someone who had a sled.
We had borrowed a kicksled, and had thought (before we got Holly!) about getting one, but a kicksled is only good for one or maybe two dogs. We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to handle Holly, a trained "professional" sled dog, without a real sled.
So when our friend Polly went to get a better brake put on her sled, Dan went along. Johnn Molburg, champion sprint and dryland musher, lives a couple hours away, and makes great, traditional wooden sleds -- Arctic Star Dog Sleds.
Johnn offered to sell his slightly used sprint sled at the end of the season (Johnn builds himself a new racing sled each year), and in black and red, it looked really sharp. But it was a lightweight sled, and with the little experience we had, probably too fragile. Sleds are typically built on order, so Dan placed an order.
We had a couple options: get a basic sled, or go a little more upscale. We knew we wanted a really good brake--Holly runs fast!--and a drag matt. Getting a better sled with all the options as part of the package is the better deal -- the net cost is about the same. We told Holly she was getting a sled, but she had to live with a wooden sled, not a racing Gatt sled like she was used to.
We picked a good recreational sled, the traditional three-stanchion Shooting Star. It comes with a bridle, bar brake, drag mat, and QCR runners (quick change). We decided to splurge and get it custom stained, so we had to pick our colors. The red and black sled looked nice, but we didn't want to use those colors--they're the NorthWapiti colors. So after a lot of thinking, we chose blue and silver, which became our color scheme for all our new gear.
Our sled was ready just as the last snow of winter '09-'10 melted, so we didn't have a chance to use it until December '10. Meanwhile we had to get more stuff. More lines so we can hookup more dogs (we could hook up 8 if we were crazy enough to try), a snow hook, and most importantly a dog bag -- to race you need to have a dog bag to carry a dog just in case it gets injured.
So we were all set to go sledding, but now we had to figure out how to carry the sled to the trails. Once we had put the roof box on the SUV (to carry all the other stuff for us and 3 dogs), there wasn't enough space on the rack for the sled -- everything was too wide. When Dan was at the Trailbreaker's Lake Farm Dryland race, he saw a nice PVC sled rack/tube configuration, so he built one. The tubes in the rack makes it easy to load and unload the sled in just a few minutes.
The sled did great in our first season ('10-'11) -- perfect for what we are doing, and we've managed not to smash it into anything, at least not enough to break anything. And we didn't manage to lose the team, but hitting the bridge railing while holding onto the snub line was pretty painful (never let go of the sled, never let go, never let go, even if you bruise your ribs... , the team can run a long way before they stop). It's still a bit stiff, so a bit hard to steer. It's a fun ride, and quite different than being on the scooter. But driving a sled is a lot more work than you might imagine.