Mammoth Dog Teams

Scott Sample


Scott Sample, MusherHello Friends! This is my chance to spill the beans about myself. It's a good conversation starter if you know something about me.

Age: 32
Years Experience Dog Mushing: 3
Hometown: Montrose, Pennsylvania
College: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Alright, enough stats. Lets get to the meat of this bio. How did I begin dog mushing? I left college for Alaska in 2000 to work for the National Park Service. This venture took me above the arctic circle for two years in the Eskimo village of Kotzebue. Running around on snowgo's (eskimo for snowmobile), I was sucking fumes, losing my hearing from exhaust noise, and freezing cause I wasn't moving physically.  And along a trail one day, I saw a dog team coming, a contestant in a local dog mushing race called the Kobuk 440 (440 mile long race).

I pulled my noisy 500 lb hunk of Arctic Cat (snowmobile) off the trail, and pulled my ear plugs off, after waving the gas fumes away from my nose.  As I watched the team approach, I thought to myself that the only noise I could make out was the pitter patter of their foot steps on the crusty snow.  Their tongues hanging loosely, steam from their mouth, ears tucked behind their head, and their gait as graceful as Fred Astaire, I was astonished at how efficient the team worked to pull the sled and musher along.

The musher, in his beautiful anorak, was kicking with one leg, resting the other on a runner, while both hands, wrapped in thick mittens, held the handle bar bow tightly.  I waved and he returned the wave, realizing his attention was diverted from the dogs, he quickly glanced back to his team to ensure everything was ok.  I was humbled, I almost cried.  I thought, now that is the way to travel.  It was only a matter of minutes I witnessed this event, but in that short time, it changed the rest of my life.

I didn't have the opportunity to mush dogs in the arctic, few Eskimos use dogs these days, most use snowgo's. So it wasn't until I took a job at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska in 2002 that my dog mushing dream would fall into place. Arriving at Denali, after the arctic, was a nice change of pace. There are trees in Denali, and really big mountains. So, I was super excited to see what Denali had in store for me. Unbeknownst to me, Denali had the only active sled dog operation in the National Park Service. So, my first day there, after hearing about the dogs, I raced over to the kennel to meet the dogs and get more info on how or why these dogs were there.

I was met by the smiling face of Karen Fortier, the Kennel Manager. She took me out to introduce me to each of the thirty dogs, all whom wanted nothing more than to be petted, and petted again. Karen then mentioned to me about an opportunity to work with the dogs in the winter. My ears... were all ears. When fall came around, Karen decided that my arctic experience and my obvious enthusiasm for the dogs would fit right into the winter patrol operations. So, I became a winter patrol Ranger using sled dogs.

For two winters, thirty dogs pulled me around the vast wilderness of Denali, looking for human impacts, assisting scientists with moving equipment, maintaining and repairing historic cabins, and passing on a tradition that had been a part of Denali since 1917. I couldn't get enough. The more I mushed, the more amazed I was on what the dogs could do. It was the most exciting time of my life thus far.

I left Alaska in 2004 to work in Glacier National Park in Montana, trying to get some diversity in my career for the National Park Service. I didn't get a chance to mush dogs the 2004-2005 season, as I was completing some personal goals I had set for myself. In the spring of 2005, I took a job with the National Park Service at Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, where I was told I would work seven months and have five months off. It doesn't get any better than that I told myself ... more time to play.

After roasting in the desert for seven months, I arrived in Mammoth Lakes this winter looking for work, and saw the advertisement for Mammoth Dog Teams. I called up Jim, gave him a quick overview of my mushing experience, and I was hired on the team. It has been an awesome experience working for Jim, and the beautiful dogs here. You too will feel the same way I did after my first time witnessing dog mushing when our dogs take you on one of our exciting tours. The experience may last only a short period of time, but it could change your life forever.

Learn How You Too Can Experience the Thrill of Dog Sledding


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