On Icy, on Thunder, on Skunky, on Sage! On Umber, on Bashful, on Zorro, on Baby Cakes!
The huskies are in a euphoric frenzy to begin. And, after meeting the dogs, hearing about their stories, and perhaps even helping to harness and line them, you are bundled with thick blankets into a lightweight carbon fiber sled. The initial takeoff brings an unexpected, raw jolt of power. Then, zipping through snowy trails lined with sugar-coated pines, along a river edged by mountain peaks, powder swirling, it’s hard to tell who is loving the trip more: you, the dogs, or their handler, Fernando Ramirez. “This is work that goes way beyond running sled dogs,” says Ramirez, owner of Luna Lobos. “There’s a moment when, after the countless hours of training with the dogs, remaining patient, and working together, suddenly it all comes together on the trail. A checkpoint in the middle of nowhere when it feels like a work of art. It is a breathtaking moment. And that is what we try and give our guests.”
If that sounds a bit poetic, well, it’s because dogsledding is more than running tours for Ramirez and his wife and business partner, Dana. It’s a full life where dogs are family, along with the couple’s four young children: Gabriel, Noah, Josiah, and baby Hazelle. The dogs inspire and inform their lives and play an integral part in all facets of Luna Lobos.
Luna Lobos’s pack are all rescue dogs, not purebred sled dogs like Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes. The Luna Lobos pooches are referred to as Alaskan huskies and are mostly a mix of husky and a type of Norwegian breed. Some are also wolf mixes. They are known for endurance, strength, speed, good attitudes, and desire, and are actually considered more efficient racing dogs than the purebreds. Ramirez and the Luna Lobos team have run long races (up to 100 miles) in Oregon, Wyoming, and Idaho, training runs Ramirez hopes will land the team a spot at the 2018 Iditarod.
This year marks Luna Lobos’s eighth season of running dogsledding tours around Park City, which typically go out from December through February, depending on snow cover. Tours run on 60 acres at the Luna Lobos base camp in Brown’s Canyon outside of Peoa; on 700 acres off Democrat Alley in Kamas; on shorter paths in Park City and East Canyon; and on 20- to 25-mile paths in Weber Canyon at Thousand Peaks Ranch.
Education is a huge part of Luna Lobos’s operation as well. Ramirez offers a junior musher program where he teaches kids life and outdoor skills, responsibility in caring for the dogs, and a chance to race at the end of the season. New this season, Luna Lobos is offering dog lodging. And friends, this is not just any dog boarding. Dogs are hiked daily and stay in a cottage equipped with a flat-screen TV, cozy couch, scratch-resistant flooring, and private sleeping quarters. “Through what we do, we have a chance to tell the stories of the dogs,” Dana says. “And those stories always touch someone who visits.”
As your tour nears an end, you wonder at what brought you to this moment among the spectacular beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. You breathe the fresh air deeply. Dog, human, mountain, forest, snow. All are connected in a moment of bliss. Indeed, it is a work of art.