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Focus on business: SunDog Adventures

Christine Wenmen, left, and Richard McIntosh with a few of their sled dogs for kicksledding tours on the frozen Back Bay on Great Slave Lake. Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

Started by husband and wife team of Christine Wenman and Richard McIntosh, SunDog Adventures opened their doors on Jan.23, bringing a unique blend of adventure tourism and kick sledding to Yellowknife.

A popular pastime in Scandinavia, kick-sledding involves standing on a thin aluminum sled frame which is often self propelled by kicking yourself along. Wenman and McIntosh have incorporated elements of skijoring by having the sleds pulled by one or two dogs.

“It's a pastime that's really taken a while to catch on in North America but it has a lot of potential, especially in a place like Yellowknife,” Wenman said.

Claire Elderbatch and Cindy Elderbatch, visiting from America enjoy their first dog lead kicksledding tour across Back Bay. Kicksledding involves a thin aluminum sled which is partly self propelled by kicking while being pulled by sled dogs. Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

The couple have a total of eight total including Siberian Huskies, a Malamute mix, Canadian Eskimo Huskies and an Alaskan Husky. The pair adopted their first dogs from the SPCA.

“Usually dog sled teams only have one or two different breeds, but we have a big mix of breeds,” McIntosh said.

“We don't actually have any lead dogs, they're all chasers,” Wenman said. “It's kind of fun watching the competition between the groups of dogs.”

The daily tours, of up to four people, offered at SunDog loop around Back Bay with a stop at the historic Back Bay cemetery and short trip through the bush to what McIntosh calls the 'ice caves.'

“We get to show a small part of Yellowknife that's a little more difficult to get to or often overlooked,” McIntosh said.

After returning back around the tour loop, guests are offered local smoked white fish and a hot drink where the couple can gain some feedback on the trips.

“It was really fun,” Claire Batchelder, said an American tourist on the trip. “It takes time getting used to steering, but you can get going pretty fast.”

Richard McIntosh, back, shows off the Back Bay ice caves as a part of SunDog Adventures' daily winter tours. Guests kick sled across the frozen section of Great Slave lake and stop to take a short tour through the area. Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

Running sled dogs is something McIntosh has been doing for several years, starting in Canmore, Alta.

“Even after he left Canmore, he's always had sled dogs,” Wenman said. “I've only had two cats before I met Richard.”

In preparation for opening the business, McIntosh and Wenman have been training four employees as tour guides with their dogs since early December.

The couple hopes to expand the building space they're using by partnering with local tourism based businesses and create a 'tourism hub' they would call the SunDog Trading Post. The name references the Yellowknife Trading Post which was the original business which operated out of the cabin on Lessard Drive on Latham Island.

“We noticed that it can be hard for small business operators to get going and it's not always economical to have a brick and mortar store front,” Wenman said. “We feel there really is a need for a shared space.'

Their plan is have a space where local business owners could share a space to cut down on fees.

“Ideally in our hub we would partner up with businesses and share some of the administration fees so you'd be able to walk in and book your dog sledding tours, your kicksledding tours, your ice fishing tours in one spot,” McIntosh said.

They would also incorporate programming space where, for example, a local photographer could come and teach aurora photography or where local artisans could teach classes.

“What we want to do here is leverage the advantage of collaboration between businesses, which there's a lot of potential for in the tourism industry,” McIntosh said.