Eleven-year-old Krista Halsnes is one of those people you could say was born 100 years too late, her mother, Leigh Halsnes said.
Krista enjoys learning about Routt County history and wishes people still used horses instead of cars to get around town.
In the winter, she speeds around her family's ranch south of Steamboat Springs on a sled pulled by five faithful husky-mix dogs.
"She loves unusual, old-fashioned things," Leigh Halsnes said. "It's really important for her to do things authentically."
Krista, a fifth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School, loves connecting with her dogs and the hushed exhilaration of swishing through open fields on the sled. She hopes someday to race in dog sled competitions.
"I love the dogs -- that's one of my favorite parts," Krista said Saturday after a sled run on the ranch. "I really love the wind in my face, and it's almost like the dogs are whispering to each other because it's so quiet."
Krista became interested in dog sledding after attending a race with her dad, Jarle Halsnes, who used to "run" huskies in his native Norway. The two bought their first sled dog, Lucy, at the race last winter.
Lucy and the other dogs -- Oak, Duchess, William and Diva -- are crossbreeds of huskies and other breeds, such as English pointer and German shorthair.
The husky in the dogs makes them want to pull, and other breeding gives the dogs a better racing gait and thinner coats for Colorado's warmer climate, Jarle Halsnes said.
The dogs clearly are bred to run -- yipping, yowling and flinging their slender bodies into the air as Krista and her father prepare to take the sled out on a 3.7-mile track around their ranch.
The dogs don't calm down until their harnesses are on and connected to the cable in front of the sled.
Ten-year-old Lucy is the lead dog, a job which usually goes to the toughest and smartest dog in the pack. She's the one who initiates the response to the drivers' commands of "haw" (go left) and "gee" (go right).
"Not all dogs want to run up front," Jarle Halsnes said.
With Jarle Halsnes driving, the dogs reach speeds of about 13 miles per hour and can run for about three hours at a time.
Even so, the Halsneses' mix of older and younger dogs isn't fast enough for racing.
The family recently bought a spry puppy, Oak, who is 6 months old. They plan to breed and train more puppies for a racing pack, Jarle Halsnes said.
When Krista is ready to race, she will use four dogs. Adult and professional dog sledders use as many as 15 dogs in races.
On Saturday, a cold, sunny day on the ranch, the track is particularly fast. As Krista and the team negotiate a tight turn, the sled slides out from under her, and she falls. An anchor stops the sled and dogs while Krista quickly brushes herself off and jumps back on the sled.
Although Krista makes it look easy, dog sledding, like any sport, has its challenges. Fast corners are tough, and it's hard for lightweight drivers such as Krista to completely stop the sled with the brake.
"It's not easy for little girls," Jarle Halsnes said as he watched his daughter struggle to turn the sled around after the dogs failed to heed her turn command.
After several laps, the Halsneses reward the dogs with a warm soup mixture of ground turkey and dog food.
Tuckered out from her "hectic" ride, Krista lounges on the top of a wooden dog shelter and soaks up the sun. Duchess and Oak join her, resting their heads on her chest.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com