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!”