New dog sledding company’s excitement shows as they start making tracks in North Routt
The air is filled with a chorus of barks and yelps as Joy Marx prepares her sled dogs for a morning run, along an unmaintained country road that leads to Little Red Park just north of Clark.
“I love dogs,” said Marx who just opened Mountain Paws Dog Sledding. “That is probably the key.”
To most, the scene looks like controlled chaos and resembles the playground on the first day of school at an elementary school, but Max sees seven dogs hiding there passion to run beyond the building excitement. The dogs can’t control their energy as she pulls them out of her truck near Routt County Road 550, and lines them up for the upcoming journey. Marx’s clients help harness and hook up the dogs, and when the time comes, they will be on the back of the sled driving the team.
“I’ve investigated a lot of the dog sledding operations in Colorado while deciding what area we wanted to come to,” Marx said. “Many of the operations don’t allow the clients to drive, like Winter Park the only thing you do is sit in the basket and their guides all drive the sleds.
“ The client is involved in all aspects of learning about the equipment, they get to meet the dogs, they help with the harnessing, they help with the hookup and that just makes the whole experience much more fun.”
On this day, Marx take a few moments to train Erica Dickerson on the basics of driving a team of seven dogs along the trail. Dickerson, who works with the U.S. Forest Service, was here to learn a little more bout Marx’s operation and how the operation was interacting with other dog sled operations that use the same trail, and snowmobilers who flock to the area near Little Red Park after the snow covered the unmaintained forest service road.
Dickerson is a recreational specialist who is in charge of awarding permits to businesses such as Marx’s. Marx’s operations joined established programs such as Snow Buddy Dog Sled Tours, owned by Sarah Piano, that runs in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area; Double-T Kennel Dog Sled Tours, that run near Stagecoach Reservoir; and the Flat Tops and Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works, which also runs near Stagecoach, the Flat Tops and on a ranch just outside of Milner. This week he is running tours in North Routt where there is enough snow to get rolling.
“Right now we are chasing snow,” Hoffman said.
But he said that the areas around Steamboat offer plenty of scenic vistas for those who may want to find a new adventure.
“It’s a real active hands-on deal,” he said. “It’s a chance to get out and see the country. The dogs are a lot of fun, and it’s something that people don’t get exposed to — it’s something that they can check off their bucket list.”
Marx threw her hat into the ring this winter after moving to the area a couple of years ago. She has lived in Germany for 23 years and spent 17 of those years working for a tour operator business out of Hanover, Germany where she arranged ski trips for German clients who wanted to visit the United States and Canada.
“I became very familiar with all of the ski areas because I was sending the Germans over here to ski,” Marx said. “Most ski areas have a dog sledding option of some sort, and I always thought that would be fun.”
So, she went out and tried it, but sitting in the basket wasn’t what she was hoping for. Then she had a client that wanted to book a ski vacation to Canada was wondered if she could arrange a weeklong dog sledding adventure once they got off the slopes. She not only booked one for him, but decided that she wanted to try it herself. In 2004 she made the trips where she lived in a little log cabin and was in charge of a team of six dogs. Each day, she would head out for 20- to 40-mile adventure.
“It was the most relaxing vacation I have ever had,” Marx said.
By the time she got home she was hooked.
“I lived in a city with no snow,” she said. “So I got a golden Labrador and taught her to pull me on my little scooter, kind of like a mountain bike without pedals and a seat. I taught her left and right, and we just scooter all over the town and into the countryside.”
The love of dogs, and dog sledding remained strong when she returned to the U.S. with her husband a few years ago. The couple wanted to find a new home, near a ski area where her husband wanted to get a job as a ski ambassador. The couple bought a travel trailer and traveled across the country, and eventually ended up at the biggest dog sled race, the Iditarod. She spent five weeks working the event as a volunteer, and met a musher who offered her the opportunity to learn the business.
In September 2013, Marx said she spent two winters and one summer working for a musher.
“That summer, I was up with the dogs on a glacier outside of Juneau, Alaska” she said. “That was an experience because you live in a tent up on the glacier and a helicopter flies the cruise clients up to the glacier for a little one-hour dog-sled run.”
Marx came to Steamboat Springs in April 2015 and started working for Tom Thurston with Double-T. She moved to Clark last year, and decided to start her own business.
This winter she will run Mountain Paws Dog Sledding, which offers trails around Steamboat Lake, and in the Columbine area with trails that gain access to Little Red Park along Forest Service Road 550.
“As soon as there is enough snow we will be doing primarily around Steamboat Lake, but they need at least a foot and half of snow to get up above the sage brush and to pack the trail. It’s a multi-use snow trail that other users can access,” Marx said. “We also have permission to go up 550, which is just north of Columbine around the back side of Hahn’s Peak.”
She said the operation offers a Drive Your Own Sled option. Marx said that is limited to two people per sled, and those clients trade off as passenger and driver along the trail.
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