Seemingly endless snowfields and clear blue sky as far as the eye can see – the countryside between Idre and Flötningen in the Swedish province of Dalarnas Iän resembles a winter fairy tale for nine months of the year. This is where Michael Hess breeds and trains a pack of 12 dogs for long-distance dog sled races. The passionate sled driver needs a vehicle which not only offers plenty of space but can easily handle the extreme weather conditions at two digits below zero to safely transport the dogs and his equipment. That is why he chose the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4. “The combination of the engine, the spaciousness and the all-wheel drive was the deciding factor for me. I have never regretted the decision to this day”, says the pack leader.
means turning the sled 180° to the right
means turning the sled 180° to the left
Stop or Woa
means run straight ahead
Michael Hess values one characteristic in particular among both his sled dogs and with his vehicle: reliability. Neither the dogs nor the Sprinter 4×4 have ever disappointed the pack leader in this respect. Yet the animals and the vehicle also have a surprising number of other aspects in common. Just like the Sprinter 4×4, the Siberian Huskies are optimally adapted to the conditions on the long distances in the Scandinavian cold. But both have to be optimally prepared for the conditions: The dogs need to be fed and trained, the Sprinter 4×4 maintained and refueled. To improve traction, the tires on the Sprinter are equipped with spikes, the dogs’ paws fitted with “booties”.
The combination of the engine, the spaciousness and the all-wheel drive was the deciding factor for me. I have never regretted the decision to this day.
However, the months of preparation and training pay off: In 2015 Michael Hess successfully competed in the Finnmarksløpet, the northernmost dog sled race in the world. This race is infamous because of the extreme climate conditions near North Cape and the very poor trail. Unlike 33 other competitors, Michael Hess successfully reached the destination with his dogs. In moments like these, training in the Swedish winter fairytale truly pays off.
Photos: Nisse Schmidt