Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours was formed in Canmore, Alberta in 1983 back when Canmore was a very quiet, very small coal mining town! It wasn’t until the 1988 Winter Olympics, part of which were held at Canmore’s iconic Nordic Centre, that the sleepy town of Canmore turned its view towards the tourism industry. Still, Canmore is famous for its beauty and exciting outdoor activities. However, surprisingly enough, sled dog tours were non-existent back in the early 1980’s. The thrill of travelling our majestic back country by dog team was not yet discovered by our visitors and for many in Canmore, dog sledding seemed to be historical – simply a part of our past.
The sport of “sled dog touring” in Canmore was a dream designed by Connie Arsenault. Her passion for dog sledding ultimately turned into an experience so special that when she approached Alberta Parks with the idea, many people thought it was a “crazy” concept! With fortitude she endeavoured to inspire Alberta Parks and Travel Alberta with the opportunity of offering this one of a kind adventure to visitors. Connie’s dedication paid off!
Following confirmation from Alberta Parks allowing Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours to operate sled dog tours in the Spray Lakes Provincial Park within Kananaskis Country, Connie began the difficult task of securing viable trails. The common goal: to never compromise the integrity of our beloved Mother Nature and Her many important inhabitants. These are all attributes that were already well instilled in Connie Arsenault whose father was one of Alberta’s first official Provincial Parks Wardens. Connie hiked each trail with certified biologists, documenting areas such a streams, rivers, springs, moose browsing, etc. ensuring no species would be harmed in creating these trails. This took a significant amount of time and after meeting Alberta Park’s requests and standards, Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours was the first to send out a commercial touring sled dog team!
In these early days, Connie was the kennel manager, reservations manager, marketing manager, lead guide, cook and transportation/operations manager. In 1997, Connie’s late husband Charles Arsenault, was able to quit his “real” job to join the company on a full time basis, bringing his much valued wilderness expertise, strong organizational and physical skills, love of huskies and beautiful sense of humor to the company. Prior to this he was often on site weekends, including several evenings grooming trails and supporting the company in every possible facet of the business.
Since 1983, Snowy Owl has grown from 1 dog team and 10 sled dogs to 16 dog teams and 180 sled dogs respectfully! They have taken their time in growth, always ensuring that any increase in sleds would under no circumstances compromise the ethical treatment of their husky family. For Snowy Owl it has always been about the remarkable and beautiful sled dogs in their care – they are the reason they have been able to turn their favourite hobby into their “livelihood”.
“Through all our hard work and dogged determination, Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours is certainly recognised as the forerunners in introducing the now very popular sport of sled dog touring. We’ve pioneered an opportunity so exceptional and magical that many other sled dog groups hoped to offer the same experience. Although our original ideas have been attempted several times over the last 30+ years by many other companies and previous employees, (which is truly a compliment) – we will continue to remain the leading pioneers and our goal is to stand to remain the most reputable dog sled touring company for years to come!”
- All In The Family
- Our Mission
- Creating A Connection
- Like A Mountain, There's A Lot Below The Surface
Another ambition in establishing Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours for Connie and Charles existed in another dream which was to create a family legacy that they could enjoy together with their children Jereme and Carlin. The idea of founding such a distinct company for future generations to enjoy is certainly a remarkable achievement and a wonderful way to allow the Snowy Owl family legacy to live on for years to come. Regrettably, on October 7th, 2006, Charles Arsenault passed away unexpectedly leaving Connie, Jereme and Carlin to carry on this dream without him. Proudly, both Jereme and Carlin now share ownership of Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc. and are hopeful that Jereme’s two daughters will take over the family business when they are old enough! Ariel and Alice can often be found helping at the kennel or up at the dogsledding site. The girls also hit the trail on their custom made sled just like their dad and auntie did when they we kids! Another key employee and family member is Director of Operations, Ethan Kimble. Ethan has worked with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours since May 2004. In this time he has contributed many of his wonderful assets including his amazing ability to build pretty much anything, his love of sled dogs and adventure. Ethan also found something he didn’t expect! On August 11th 2011 Ethan married Carlin and officially became a part of the Snowy Owl family!
Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours excels in its commitment to offer the most genuine dog sledding experience in the Canadian Rockies.”
“We have always upheld the high standards of real dog sledding, from the breeds we use right down to allowing our guests the amazing joy of driving their very own team of huskies! For us, Snowy Owl is our way of life, our passion and our hope is to share this with our visitors and truly demonstrate how empowering dog sledding can be says Connie Arsenault. “Everything we do in conducting the tour for them is viewed through that perspective.”
“Many people tell us that they have never experienced anything quite like this before. They have come for a mere adventure, but they comment time after time that it was a lot more than just that and to call it a thrill is not enough. It’s the air, the mountains, the raw beauty, the dog’s energy, and the physical and mental challenge – all a recipe for a transformation in the present, and a profound memory for the future.” says Connie.
It is said that if you spend a few hours on these alluring trails, becoming one with the dogs, and one with the wilderness, you’ll be a changed person. You can only experience it to believe it.
“It is all about our dogs – always has been and always will be!” says Carlin Kimble who has been running dog teams since childhood. “Our husky heroes are beautiful, healthy, personable and happy! They are our most valuable asset – they are our family!” And Snowy Owl doesn’t stop there; they only promote the highest ethical standards for dog care as well as the importance of preserving and protecting the traditional sled dog breeds. “We still continue to be one of the very few sled dog touring companies in the world who utilize 6 different sled dog breeds, 5 of which are the traditional sled dogs breeds and 2 that happen to be on the verge of extinction.” says Carlin. “These sled dog breeds have given the human race life. They have provided transportation, protection, companionship and given their lives in the name of survival for their 2-legged friends. “Carlin explains.
“The 4 -legged family of Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours are the engines of our company. Without these incredible dogs we wouldn’t be able to take part in this amazing lifestyle! We consider our huskies colleagues and they are adored members of our big family. They have such amazing personalities (all different of course!) Each and every dog shows us so much compassion and love; they make this job worth every challenge!” mentions Carlin.
“We know each 4-legged family member by name and treat them as individuals, and of course, cater to their needs.” “Why does this become important for our visitors? A pampered husky is inevitably going to be a more reliable, a more enjoyable and a safer companion out on the trail.” “We have happy dogs, and it shows. We wouldn’t want it any other way”, muses Carlin, whose entire life revolves around keeping her four legged friends in good shape and eager to perform. Carlin regards her position as the perfect opportunity to be the spokesperson for their dogs.
The huskies of Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours are cared for with the utmost respect and love. They receive the highest quality feed, veterinary care, grooming and housing. In this kennel the huskies always come first and their health and happiness are never compromised. The majority of guests joining Snowy Owl always comment on just how well looked after each and every four-legged team mate is which certainly makes the experience far more memorable!
“As long as there is decent snow conditions, we will be offering guests the opportunity to “Harness their Dreams”! We employ over a dozen guides, four to five van drivers, three dog care professionals and four reservations personnel to provide the best customer care. Our entire team must undergo a significant amount of training, even though we expect them to come to us with a lot of expertise.”The sled dog operation is huge – literally and figuratively. It takes a couple of Kennel Managers working twelve hours a day to provide for the needs of the kennel alone.
“We take great pride in everything, including the food that we serve our important guests, the authentic interpretation that we offer, and in making the visitors’ experience as perfect as it can possibly be. Our staff have to get up hours before dawn and hustle all day to achieve our highly set standards.”
“We are experts in building teams based on age, gender, personality and nationality. On any average winter day we send out over a dozen teams across a wide area of the Spray Lakes valley providing a once in a lifetime experience for our guests.