The dogs are harnessed up to the sled, frantic with excitement, paddling at the snow, barking and howling. But when I release the brake, we bolt forwards and the yapping stops instantly, giving way to the hush of wooden blades on fresh powder.
My team of Alaskan huskies race along the forest track and I can’t help grinning with childish pleasure. I am dog-sledding on a remote Norwegian mountain, losing myself in the eager gallop of the huskies and the silent beauty of the falling snow. And I almost crash into a tree.
Before setting off, we were given a lesson in how to handle the sled – and I’m beginning to wish I had paid more attention.
Our instructor Live (pronounced ‘lever’) warned us the dogs do not respond to the word ‘stop’, or any other command for that matter. Instead we have the option of treading on a plastic mat to slow the sled down, or a metal brake to bring the dogs to a halt.
If the sled tips up I know I’m supposed to hold on tight, or else the dogs will take off without me.
There are 48 huskies in the kennels, aged six months to 13 years, and the breed is a mix of Siberian husky, greyhound and pointer.
Only one looks like a traditional Siberian husky with white hair, pointed ears and ice-blue eyes.
‘That’s Sinatra,’ says Live. ‘We call him the son of the devil.’
Sinatra snarls at me and I’m glad he’s not on my team.
We’re told to take off our gloves and uncover our faces so the animals can get to know us as we harness them up.
The 13km loop takes us up on to a mountain plateau. It’s -5C and the snow is falling thick and fast.
With the sun held back behind clouds and the pine trees mere silhouettes on the horizon, the landscape is drained of colour. It’s an otherworldly scene.
My Norwegian adventure also included cross country skiing.
Unlike downhill, your heels are not fixed to the skis and you ski along tracks carved in the snow.
‘It’s like lazy walking,’ said Ingrid, our Finnish guide, instructing us into a kind of shuffle-kick-glide. After one or two wobbles I was soon on my way.
Professionals can ski at more than 20kmh. Beginners start gently, getting a rhythm and trying to stop watching their feet.
There’s time to take in the scenery – log cabins, spruce trees outlined in the snow like cracks in glass, and mountain meadows rolling white across the horizon. It’s a calming and meditative environment.
After a while I realised Ingrid – herself a champion skier – was being disingenuous. ‘Lazy walking’ is actually quite hard work, so I was glad to stop for lunch.
We stood by a roaring outdoor fire, flame grilling hot dogs and Arctic char fish, washed down with steaming hot mugs of cloud berry juice.
In the early evening we took part in a toboggan race before walking beneath a reddening sky to a local cafe, where we sipped hot chocolate around a log fire as Ingrid told us Nordic folk tales. Then there was time for a swim in the hotel pool and a body-bake in the sauna, the perfect way to relax.
One word of warning though – Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world and a pint of beer sets you back 82 Krona (almost £8). A cocktail is a pound or so more.
So enjoy the scenery and sport, but take plenty of money.
Joe Sinclair travelled with Exodus, which offers eight-day trips to Norway in March/December 2011 and February/March 2012 from £1,329, including return Heathrow-Oslo SAS flights, transfers, most meals and Rondabalikk winter adventures. Connecting flights ex-Manchester/Glasgow from £25.
Exodus reservations: 0845 527 4364 and exodus.co.uk.
SAS reservations: 0871 226 7760 and flysas.co.uk.