Eden Dogsledding Eden Dogsledding

Livin' The Vermont Way Cover Story

Sled Dogging It In Vermont - More than meets the eye!  -  We were very pleased when Livin' The Vermont Way asked us for a cover story.  Here are the direct links for the cover and the story.  We have included the story here as well as sadly this important Vermont Magazine is no longer published. 


By Deborah Blair Ph.D.

Sled Doggin’ It In Vermont - More than meets the eye

Gee! . . . Haw! . . . . On by! . . . . Pick it up, Buttercup!” A team of ten Alaskan Huskies thunders by enthusiastically as I snap the shutter of my camera. I turn to see them disappearing into the valley with a wonderful view of the Green Mountains. The fall color is spectacular. Yes! There is no snow now for these sled dogs . . they are carrying passengers from Texas on a German-made cart. Musher Jim Blair of Eden Mountain Dogsledding calls his wheeled adventures, “Dogsledding-On-Wheels,” other Vermont mushers call it dog carting. But it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is another aspect of dogsledding in Vermont.

Dog powered activities are fun, exciting and seem to capture the hearts of most who participate in them. Vermont is home to some of the top dogsledding centers in New England. In particular, Eden Mountain Dogsledding and Dogsledding-On-Wheels draws people from all over North America, the British Isles and the globe. Jim and his free-range dogs offer Discovery Channel style tours that are given on a wheeled, high-performance cart in warmer seasons and sleds in the winter. Mushers from New England and Canada train their individual dogs and teams for racing and fun pulling activities on the special engineered trails that Blair has designed.

Jim, now semi-retired from racing, was an international six-dog sprint racer and three time U.S. National Two-dog Skijor champ. “It is a labor of love, really. For years I took all the profits out of my restoration painting business and put them into building the trails and purchasing state-of-the-art snow and trail maintenance equipment.” Blair looks at the ground and then throws a ball for Peaberry, one of his national race champion skijor dogs. “My dream was to create a touring center that focuses on sled dogs. I wanted the trails to be safe for the dogs and people and yet offer the fun, joy and excitement of the sport and the beauty of this remote paradise. Nothing beats being pulled by these incredibly athletic dogs!”

Jim's dream is to eventually have a foundation where people can learn about and participate in sled dog related sports. He wants it to serve as a free-range haven for sled dogs from whelping to retirement. He is also developing a pet therapy option for children and adults with challenges as people respond well to the attention of his furry wonders. Jim does not chain his dogs€”they spend time sleeping in beds and monopolizing the seating. “Its all about the dogs!” says Jim as he is in constant motion attending to the many needs of his 28 Alaskan Huskies. “The dogs are the center attraction here€”they are just so wonderful, it is a gift to be able to know them. I believe that all dogs deserve to have a good quality of life and I try to provide that four seasons of the year.”

Paying guests and visitors experience how sled dogs, just like our much loved couch potato dogs, respond to individual love and attention. Children and adults meet and play with the dogs, learn to harness them and hitch them onto the snow sleds or low carts-on-wheels that imitate the sensation that one gets when on snow, go for rides and then get to aid in the watering and un-harnessing process while sharing cookies with the dogs. In the warmer seasons the dogs treat the guests to their incredible antics as they jump in and out of the pond swimming and spontaneously break into races that demonstrate how incredibly fast and fit they are. Jim’s dogs love people and they love to clown which results in many visitors maintaining an e-mail relationship to keep up with the adventures of their favorite dogs.

“My dream was to create a touring center that focuses on sled dogs. I wanted the trails to be safe for the dogs and people and yet offer the fun, joy and excitement of the sport and the beauty of this remote paradise. Nothing beats being pulled by these incredibly athletic dogs!”

“People fall in love with the dogs. Each dog has his or her own special personality. I have a ‘favorite’ that changes every minute! Luna is the ambassador, Buster is the huggable, Lily is the Olympian, Rainbow is the singer, Maple is the champion . . . . I could go on and on!” Jim laughs and slips Stormina a cookie. “The ski resorts, inns and B&Bs send guests over who think they are coming for a fun, Call of The Wild doggie tour and they get hooked. I have had a number of guests who start coming for the carting and sledding several times a year because they enjoy both.”

“The sled dog experience is so unique all year round. I do caution people to be very careful of overheating their dogs in warm weather; in the summer I only run in the mornings when it is cooler and tours includes a break where the dogs go swimming to rest and cool off. Since I can’t possibly answer all the questions that people have I have developed an informational web site with Lo Thamm of North 100 Design and Illustration. Our goal for the website is for it to be a continuation of the learning experience we offer here where kids and adults can access information about sled dogs activities, share information with their friends and classrooms and promote loving and enjoying their own dogs!”

“Another of my goals is for people to stop idolizing the Iditarod and other distance/survival races. I admire Lance Mackie and Susan Bucher but 99.9-percent of the population is not going to run an 1100-mile race. Sled dogs can bring joy to people in more attainable activities.” Dog powered sports include: Skijoring€”where a dog or dogs pulls a cross country skier, Scooter joring where dogs pull a scooter, Bikejoring€”where dogs pull a bike and Cani-cross€”where dogs pull a runner. “The press has focused on the longer races ignoring other options and the great sprint races of ten to thirty kilometers that are enjoyable and very doable for people with backyard kennels who love their dogs and want to have fun with them.”

The Vermont Mushers Association is a group of people who work for public awareness, safety, trail access and helping people enjoy all varieties of wheeled and snow pleasures with dogs. There are approximately 100 mushers in Vermont, including: Ingrid Bower, a librarian from UVM and Elizabeth Rankin, an animal control officer from Stowe, who help Jim give tours. Ken Haggett, a cabinet maker, gives carting and sled tours with his Siberians. Gail Breslauer, an educator, gives winter tours. Red Goodman loves skijoring, as does Jean Coffy who skijors and scooterjors with her two Siberians. Steve Long, a contractor, maintains a kennel of sleek, fast Alaskans, winning sprint races all over New England and Canada. Joe Comino, a teacher, and his partner, Eleaine Stasney, a pediatrician have been race champions for over 25 years.

The fun of running, biking, dog carting, scootering, sledding and skiing powered by dogs is something that many people can enjoy. “Our dogs are such important assets in our lives. I want people to come here to enjoy the great experience that a sled-dog dedicated center offers and send them home with the message that they can enjoy their own dogs more through exploring shared activities.”

Deborah Blair Ph.D. is a writer, motivational speaker, meditation teacher and Jungian psychotherapist  who offers Jungian analysis and life mentoring for artists, writers and professionals, dreamwork,  and teaches meditation and Life-Stories, a Jungian journal method. Having Celiac Disease and Asperger's Syndrome, she also helps people support themselves through adopting lifestyle changes. She lives  in Vermont with her brother, Jim Blair, and The UN-Chained Gang. Contact Deborah at Eden Ethical Dog Sledding - edenmtlodge@gmail.com