After a very long trip from San Francisco to Chicago to Sweden to Norway, I finally arrived in Oslo, where I spent the entire day sleeping off the jet lag before catching a Scandinavian Airlines flight way up to the archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle the next morning. Surprisingly, it was a big plane, with six seats all the way across, and we landed in an arctic desert—right before going dog sledding in Longyearbyen.
We were to board Hurtigruten’s expedition cruise the following evening, but first there was more than 24 hours to kill in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s biggest of four inhabited towns (population: 2,100). So we did what any tourists in the Arctic would do and we went to meet the locals!
If you’re confused about how we could go dog-sledding in Longyearbyen with no snow, you’re not the only one: I wondered the same. As it turns out, the dogs have to stay in shape year round, so their trainers exercise them on sleds with wheels.
So we ventured out into the “desert” to where the dogs were housed and got ready to go for a spin.
But first, we had to “suit up!” in these fine marshmallow suits to guard against the chill.
I wish they’d given me something like our driver’s get-up instead. Cozy, right?
And then, we were off! Dog-sledding through the barren desert.
Let me tell you: Despite no snow, those dogs run fast. Routinely, we’d have to stop and give them water from the stream, so they wouldn’t dehydrate.
My favorite part by far, though, wasn’t the ride at all, but when we got the chance to climb in the pen with all the babies.
I mean, would you just look at that face? How can you not want to pick him up and give him a big squeeze?
Pure bliss for a dog lover like me—so much so, I didn’t even mind the lingering stench of puppy breath on my cheek.
It took all I had to not sneak one home with me in my carry-on.
If you’ve been dog sledding in the snow, perhaps you won’t find this activity nearly as entertaining as I did. However, Longyearbyen doesn’t exactly have much of a social scene, so it’s a great way to kill some time—and energy—before being sea-bound for the next five days.