Home » Volvo Took Me Dogsledding And It Was Awesome

Volvo Took Me Dogsledding And It Was Awesome

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My fellow Autopians. I’m in Sweden this week to drive the new Volvo EX30 on ice and snow but I really want to tell you about a very different type of vehicle you see around here.

Full disclosure: Volvo flew me to the far northern reaches of Sweden to drive their new EX30 compact SUV on snow and ice, put me up in fancy hotels, and served me some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. But before we got on the ice, they took us on a little side excursion that I want to tell you about.

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Imagine a motor with 12 cylinders arranged in two banks of six cylinders each. And instead of each cylinder having a single connecting rod delivering its power, it has four. 48 connecting rods in total. Not only that, but each connecting rod is capable of delivering its power directly to the ground through one of the ultimate snow traction devices ever developed. If you can imagine that then you’ll understand the engine that powered the vehicle I rode in this morning. I am of course talking about a dogsled.

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Twelve dogs tied to the front of what looks like a large version of the downhill sleds we all had as kids.

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As a passenger, you sit on the sled in a row, one behind the other…

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…and there’s a driver who stands on the rails sticking out the back. The driver’s job is to control the dogs and get them to go in the right direction.

I didn’t get to drive unfortunately, they only let me ride. I guess controlling these things takes a bit of training. Steering is by command. To get the dogs to go left, the driver yells “LEFT, LEFT, LEFT”. To go right he/she yells “RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT.” You get the idea. It’s a lot of shouting, but the dogs are surprisingly obedient.

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Imagine if you could tell your car to go left or right just by saying so. Of course, you have to use the right words cause these dogs only speak Swedish.

The brakes consist of a bar with two spikes welded to it. You apply them by stepping on the bar with your foot and driving the spikes into the snow.

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Of course, stopping distance will depend on how well your powertrain gets the message and actually slows down. Each of these 12 cylinders seems to be at full throttle all the time. Even standing still they are raring to go.

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Imagine if instead of applying friction to a brake rotor, your car stopped by pushing spikes into the pavement. Our roads would all quickly look like that scene in Cars where Lightning McQueen tears up the road dragging Stanley’s statue behind him.

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And when you park it, you absolutely have to put on the parking brake, or your vehicle will most definitely take off on its own without you.

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Directional stability isn’t all the best either. The sleds ride on two long runners that are about 4-5 inches wide and completely flat underneath. Kind of like skis except you can’t tilt them to let the edges dig into the snow. Covered in plastic, they provide little friction but also no cornering power. Oversteer and drifting is the name of the game here.

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But it’s all OK. With the drive system in front, the sled just follows behind.

Are Dogsleds Green?

So, what about the environmental impact of these vehicles? We have rightfully become very attuned to how our transportation choices impact the world around us, so how do these sleds compare?

Consider what fuels these vehicles. Dog food! Each dog eats about 1 Kg of food per day during the winter season. That adds up quick when you have 12 of them per sled. But if they’re like my dogs, they’ll eat just about anything and be happy. I’m sure they get the good stuff though. Pulling sleds is hard work. Reindeer is a very popular meat in Sweden and while I don’t know this for a fact, I assume much of that ends up in the dogs as well.

We could go into the whole life cycle of producing dog food (but we won’t). There would of course be some environmental impact from this chain but I’m guessing it’s probably a lot less than that of fossil fuel.

But what about the exhaust? Are we adding to greenhouse gasses here? Aside from a few farts here and there, the only exhaust is a lot of poop, much of which ends up scattered along the trails. Once Spring comes and Winter releases its icy grip on the landscape, all those piles will fade back into the earth and go on the feed more plants which will probably be eaten by the local reindeer and the whole cycle starts over again.

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I guess that makes dogsledding pretty environmentally friendly or at least neutral.

Durability

So now that we know that dogsleds are simple yet effective machines that may actually be good for the environment, we want to know how well they last. We don’t want to have to replace our machine too often. Well, there’s good news here too. Each cylinder in this powertrain is good for about 11 years but not only that, they have an amazing way of reproducing themselves. You basically have an endless supply that will, for all intents and purposes, last forever.

Pretty cool for something that has been around for literally centuries.

In all seriousness though, if you ever have a chance to ride a dogsled, do it. I was a complete stranger to these dogs but as I walked the line, each one just wanted to be loved a lick me to death. For a dog lover like me, it was truly impressive and fun.

 

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Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
22 days ago

With the correct breed and sufficient ground, they can be self sufficient during the Green season. The difficulty is going to catch them back once the White season is there.
That does reduce the environment impact a bit as they will get their own food by themselves.

( Been there done that, found a Greenland Malamut on a remote Greenland Island, was told to try to catch it as it was there since last winter. We never came at less than 2meter from it despite all the good food we offered. )

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
23 days ago

This is awesome…glad you got to do it!

LastStandard
LastStandard
23 days ago

My one and only experience dogsledding was in middle school, 7th grade I think. We had a class trip for a week up at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. Amazing place, especially in the winter. We went snowshoeing, played around in snow that was almost over our heads. Even did some learning as well. One of the activities was a dogsled ride. Two kids at a time would hop in the cart, while the musher took them on an out-and-back route through the forest. My turn was up, so another classmate and me hopped in the cart and started our journey.

All was well, and it certainly was fun, up until the turnaround point. Our guide had to muscle the sled around, and for some reason or another stumbled off the back. The dogs just took off.. like the article says, they are at full throttle ALL THE TIME. Luckily, this was a route the dogs knew and ran all the time, so they headed straight back to the start as fast as they could. It was a bumpy ride, but we made it back without tipping and in record time.

Turkina
Turkina
23 days ago

Frozen doggie landmines are horrible when the poop is on trail and melts in the spring! Obviously I’m talking about hiking and people who let their dogs poop along a sidewalk and not picking up. Dogsled trails are not high traffic areas.

Thevenin
Thevenin
23 days ago

12kg of dog food per day might not sound very fuel efficient yet, but any day now Toyota will develop one that runs on three chihuahuas and a taser.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
23 days ago

Sled dogs are so funny. They get so excited to run that it is hard to stop them. As you mentioned, if you forget to set the brake, they will just go and leave you standing there. My sister adopted a retired sled dog and she pulled like crazy on the leash. Even though she was older, she was a tireless runner.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
23 days ago

Imagine if you could tell your car to go left or right just by saying so

Don’t give the “connected services” asshats any ideas

Last edited 23 days ago by Chartreuse Bison
Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
23 days ago

Here for the dog content 🙂

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
24 days ago

How about the CO2 emissions? Those engine are running all the time, even when disconnected and in storage.

I’ve done dogsledding twice, and I loved it. I don’t even like dogs, but those guys just want to run and you can’t help loving them. The way they take bites of snow to drink while they run is adorable. It was a wonderful joyous experience.

I got to drive, the dogs know the tourist routes, steering wasn’t a problem. The dogs have no throttle, they are flat out all the time as soon as the harness is on, so you can’t ever forget to have the brake on. Treat it like a clutch on an engine that’s stuck at the redline.

I didn’t even mind that they poop while running, imagine loving a car that shat in your face at random (although I’ve owned some old BMWs…).

RICK OTA
RICK OTA
24 days ago

How about fuel efficiency? Slump(60% fat fortified soup and kibble) eating sled pups rule. Rudolf Diesel would be beaming with pride!

“When it comes down to sheer capacity for prolonged exercise,” says Ken Hinchcliff, an Australian veterinary physiologist who’s done more research on sled dogs than any other scientist, “there is no other animal, including humans, that comes close to competing.”

Alex Zaretskiy
Alex Zaretskiy
24 days ago

I’ll be that guy..
You referred to the car as an “XC30” in the first paragraph. Probably meant EX30 =P

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
24 days ago

Really enjoyed this. Hope the rest of your trip is equally enjoyable. Look forward the EX30 icy assessment, but really, how could it top dogsledding?

Willybear
Willybear
23 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

the EX30 apparenty is all touch screen garbage to save money. I’ll take the tactile controls of a dogsled any day.

Live2ski
Live2ski
24 days ago

yes, a stationary dogsled is like doing a burnout. the dogs are full throttle even when not moving forward.

Alexk98
Alexk98
24 days ago

No analysis of the suspension geometry and performance of the doggy legs aka connecting rods? Why do I even bother with this site anymore! (/s)

In all seriousness though, the engine/cylinder analogy is adorable, I’m extraordinarily jealous and I absolutely cannot wait for the EX30 review since those things look absolutely stellar for the money.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
23 days ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I, too, was looking for a scathing review of the ancient suspension design. I understand that NVH is definitely an issue, but, like in an old dune buggy, you ain’t care

AssMatt
AssMatt
24 days ago

Dogsledding is a blast, as long as you’re dressed for it (no windows or screens to protect your face and hands). Those dogs are so happy to run! Recommendation echoed: do it if you have the chance!

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
24 days ago

I could use a dogsled around here, given the 18″ of snow we got this past weekend.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
24 days ago

I think I’ve seen wheeled dogsleds for non-winter training. You may be onto something here…

R53forfun
R53forfun
24 days ago
Reply to  Huibert Mees

I was wondering what temperature it was because you guys looked like you were having a blast! Temps around freezing would be *glorious*.

I did 1.5 days’ worth of dogsledding in Northern Minnesota in Jan 2018 when temps were insanely cold: -35F at 9am up to a high of -6F or so for a bit around 4pm.

The dogs loved it, but for various weather-related reasons, the entire experience was unfortunately a *complete shitshow* for us humans.

Hamish48
Hamish48
24 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

took one on a cruise to Alaska. Great fun, and the dogs are incredibly eager to get at it.

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