Four years ago Rifle resident Jeff Allen decided to give dog sledding a try with a two-dog team. Now he runs a team of six and has started breeding his own dogs with the ultimate goal of upgrading to 15. He recently bred one of his dogs with a dog owned by Alaskan Iditarod racer Jeff King who he met and talked with at various sled dog races.
Allen moved to the area in 2012 and became a ski instructor. However, with burns over 70 percent of his body the pain while skiing was no longer tolerable. He gave skijoring a try but the pain persisted.
That was when he decided to try to lead a team of dogs from behind a sled and a new passion was discovered.
“It’s quiet,” he said. “You’re running along and all you hear is their feet hitting the ground and the runners sliding across the snow. It’s peaceful.”
His dogs run an average of 15 miles at a pace of 12 miles per hour depending on the temperature and type of snow.
“They’re pretty tired when that happens… they can be little nightmares,” Allen said with a laugh.
His mentor and dog sledding partner is Canyon Creek resident Mark Hatch, who has been dog sledding for fun and sport for 30 years. The two, along with Hatch’s wife Linda, meet up at the West Elk Trailhead at least 2 times per week in the winter months.
“I have enjoyed this immensely and plan on doing it for a long time,” Allen said.
Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or [email protected]