Former Guide at Green Dog Svalbard

Life on Svalbard and Green Dog

I quit my office job a long time ago. When I was travelling Alaska I fell in love with sled dogs and I knew what I had to do. I found a job in Canadian Rockies and started to learn about mushing. After a few weeks I was sure that I wanted to learn more about doggies and the whole lifestyle so I applied to Green Dog Svalbard. Since the beginning I was super excited because photos, videos and reviews were showing that the company is amazing.

I came to Svalbard in early December, with two months of darkness in front of me, 30 awesome dogs and something new to learn everyday. It was tough but “No guts, no glory“ right? The next few months I would describe as the most amazing ride in my life. 12 hours a day outside in -20, high Arctic polar bear country, your own pack of 30 dogs, which you are fully responsible for and the most amazing nature all around. We are going out everyday in complete darkness, very often the Northern lights are lightning up the skies. It is like a pure Arctic dream and the feeling of adventure is really overwhelming. Life was flying by and the sun was slowly coming back to the Arctic. I’ve been on the road for at least 7 years and even though I travelled around 50 countries, and I must say that February/March on Svalbard is one of the most incredible things I ever experienced! So stunning! Days were going so fast and now it has already been almost 2 years and I’m happy and proud to be part of a company like Green Dog.

For us it is not a job, it is a lifestyle and a pure passion to create experiences which will stay with our customers for a lifetime.

A day in life as a Green Dog guide

Most of the Green Dog employees are living with our doggies in the valley called Bolterdalen. We are living in huts with no running water, small space and usually 3 dogs inside. I spent 8 months in a cabin like this and it was the best winter of my life. I am not the biggest fan of the modern world so to live in the high arctic wilderness was like a dream come true and I will never forget about it.

For certain reasons, I moved to Longyearbyen and now I will describe to you my ordinary winter day at work! I’m up usually around 6 o’clock, starting with warm oatmeal. It is incredible to see the difference between a warm and cold breakfast if you are working outside in a very cold environment. Then I am driving to Green Dog, sipping coffee, listening to Eddie Vedder or Johnny Cash and enjoying the views. One of the most amazing things is coming up: as soon as my pack hear the sound of my car they are all going crazy! This is the reason why we are living on Svalbard. To have 30 doggies and be able to work with them all year around is just awesome. A quick cuddle is a must and the doggies are getting their morning soup, raw meat with water. Cleaning time, you must make sure the site is absolutely clean and that all the poo is picked. Next, I’m preparing sledges, checking lines, getting frost out of sledge skis, and harnessing dogs – sometimes it is very good to run to keep yourself warm. What is helping us a lot is the routine we are following to be sure that everything is ready. Today we will have a full day tour to the ice cave so I’m preparing hot water, sleeping bag (if someone would get too cold), satellite phone, signal pistol, rifle and then I am good to go to pick up customers.

If I will pick you up, please trust me that the smile is not fake. I spent too much time in the office so Im purelly happy to take you out. The van is stopping next to the yard and the doggies are going crazy. This is the first moment, when the customers see my dogs and I love it! It is important for me to explain the difference between working animals and house dogs. Yes, they live part of their life on the chain, but watch the tails, they are freaking happy! Next is the dressing room and the quickly to cuddles. Just go for it and cuddle them as much as you can. Then we will start on the more serious note, when we will go through the safety briefing.

A big part of guiding is to be able to read your customers and you can be sure that we have loads of experience in Green Dog 🙂 Now we will put the dogs in front of the sledge, they are screaming, jumping, playing and you can watch the customers, how they cannot believe their own eyes. So much passion, so much power – it is like heroin to the dogs! I’m having two customers on my sledge, the releasing rope is unattached from the pole and we are flying through the snow. Other customers on unguided sledges are following. As soon as the dogs are running, they are completely calm and we are cruising through the valley, the weather is stunning, nothing is better than this. I’m usually having 3 unguided sledges behind me, so we are stopping occasionally for photos and roughly after 2 hours we are arriving to the ice cave in the Scott Turner Glacier. The last 2 kilometres we were sledding uphill, helping the doggies, so after parking them, we will appreciate lunch and coffee. Can you imagine something better than -15, warm coffee and yourself sitting on a reindeer skin in the middle of the Arctic on the 78 latitude? I cannot 🙂

The ice cave is waiting for us and we are walking down in the frozen canyon. What is super cool from my point of view is that now you are walking into the glacier, which you were dogsledding on before. The colours are amazing, the walls are like glass made and you are now in our ice palace! Lots of our customers cannot believe their eyes, it is just stunning. But it is now time to get back, so we are preparing the dogs and starting to descend roughly 300 altitude meters. Dogs and guides know their jobs so you can enjoy flying down and feel the adventure, then we reach the valley again and after 25 kms and a few hours later you are back in our kennel.

Cuddles are absolutely necessary, when our heroes are waving their fluffy tails. After, you will change and I will take you to our warm cabin and we will share a cup of coffee and some cookies. You can have brandy as well, that is Green Dog hospitality. We are saying goodbye to the doggies and the day is over. At least for the customers. I’m going back to feed, the dogs are shouting like crazy when I’m approaching with the buckets. They deserve a proper dinner. After, I will spend some extra time with my pack, just sitting next to a doghouse, cuddling them and chilling. If I am lucky enough, they will start to howl or the sky will get coloured with northern lights. Another day in paradise is over, I’m tired but happy. A warm home, a glass of red wine and the feeling that you are doing something that makes sense and that you are making people (and dogs of course) happy.

Jan Hvizdal

Jan Hvizdal

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Fantastic Nature Experiences

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