History of Dog Sledding in the Banff Area
While using sled dogs for transportation in the Rockies was, for the most part, a foreign notion to the Warden service, there was one notable individual who was climbing mountain passes by dog team as early as the 1920s. Ike Mills, an avid adventurer, had two dog teams and regularly hauled freight and passengers into Skoki and Assiniboine Lodges.
There were annual dogsled races on Lake Minnewanka, which saw teams, traveling as far away as Manitoba to participate. The teams traveled by train to Banff, and up to the race site in an early prototype dog truck. Horse and wagon! During the Banff Winter Carnival’s there were Kid and Mutt Races right down Banff Avenue. The ‘Strongheart’ Dog Derby, at 90 miles in length from Banff to Calgary, ran several years running throughout the 1920s.
More recently, throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Canmore was the site of a sprint race that hosted world-class dog sled teams. Today, for reasons unknown, expedition travel by dog team is a rare occurrence in the Canadian Rockies. Races have fallen by the wayside due to lack of snow, and the lack of vast numbers of tireless volunteers required to host a race.