Dog Sledding: Notebook

As a producer, I was scratching my head… where does one go in the United States to film dog sledding in the middle of summer? Even in Alaska, finding snow in mid summer was tough, unless you looked up, way up. Up to the tops of the many high mountain ranges in the state.

My answer came from one of the outfitters that we had already contracted for an episode on glacier climbing. His daughter was already into dog sledding and knew a women who raced dogs professionally in Alaska. Her friend was open for the opportunity to put her dogs on the snow in July. Usually these professional racers harness there dogs to ATV’s and have the team pull them around on the ATV for there summer training. But even in Alaska having the chance to run your dogs on snow in July was a bonus.

The logistics were daunting. The team and all the gear had to be driven hundreds of miles to an airfield in Chitina, Alaska, where they were then flown, in several back and forth trips, to our location at the Ultima Tule Lodge, in the heart of the Wrangell St Elias National Park. The team was boarded at the lodge while we completed another episode of the series. Then we were all flown to a 10,000 foot snow covered caldera in the St Elias mountains.

Transporting all the gear and crew and dogs required to this beautiful snow filled location still required several trips in their two airplanes. Having not seen snow for a few months the dogs were excited, apparently they live to run on snow. To them it isn’t work but fun to pull the musher and sled around for hours at a time.

Once we were all on this flat mountain top surface, we still encountered obstacles to overcome on this shoot. Because we were to shoot on snow high in the mountains we expected that we would have a problem with the batteries getting cold and loosing their power. This was, however, not to be the case because the sun reflected off the snow kept the temperature quite warm. In fact the crew quickly removed their parkas as we worked hard setting up the cameras and other gear.

The second problem was not one to so easily overcome: the altitude. We landed at 10,000 feet and the dog team would be traveling higher than that. In fact our camera operator made it up to 12,000 feet. Yours truly felt the lack of air, as soon as we got off the plane, and had to remain where we landed. Our director and cameraman, Anthony, made it to the top but later paid for this exertion. In fact on the flight back we all suffered some of the effects of being above 10,000 feet, with headaches and nausea being shared by the crew.

There are literally thousands of things that a producer must consider on each episode. Some are the same, but with so many different locations and environments, it is almost a sure thing that something will be overlooked. As you watch and enjoy the different shows we have, you never get a glimpse at what was done to get those great shots onto your TV. The picture below was taken when Anthony had a moment to rest and he was at the top of the mountain. Our hope is that we can share with you some of the majesty and beauty that this series was shot in.

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