Kicksledder Spotlight: Kicksledding with Niki and her dog Tilla in NE Minneapolis

Kicksledder Spotlight: Kicksledding with Niki and her dog Tilla in NE Minneapolis

Excited to share this interview with NE Minneapolis resident, Niki Tushar. Born and raised in Minnesota, Niki learned to love exploring our varied landscape. When she was younger, her family used to camp all over the country. And now she tries to instill a love and appreciation for the outdoors with her kids (3 and 6 years old)– including a love of winter on their kicksled with their dog Tilla leading the way.

How did you first learn about kicksledding?

My friend offered to take a few girlfriends out on a winter kicksledding adventure. We bundled up and headed to the Mississippi River in St. Paul. It was so much fun that I bought one as soon as we were done! I didn't want to spend another winter day without one. Also, my children’s daycare has kicksleds. They use them to push their friends around the backyard!

Tell us about Tilla...

We rescued a german shepherd/great pyrenees mix named Tortilla, Tilla for short. At two years old, she has a lot of energy and loves to go on runs. I don't run as much in the winter, so when I discovered kicksledding, I immediately thought how great it would be for her to give it a go! She loves the cold weather, so an outdoor winter adventure is perfect for her.

What type of training, if any, did you do to prepare Tilla before you tried out your kicksled?

When I first got my kicksled, I was excited to get outside with Tilla and try it out, so we started with just a running leash, harness, and a kicksled! Tilla quickly learned to stay out of our way, but it wasn't the best or safest with her off to the side. So we went to a class with Jack and the Pack and learned about the gear needed and basics for having Tilla pull the kicksled. She was a natural and we had so much fun flying down the path with the other dogs.

What do you think is the most challenging part?

To me it was just the hurdle of getting the proper gear so I was making safe choices for my dog. Once I acquired the proper harness and hook-ups for the kicksled, we were ready to go!

How does Tilla like kicksledding? What kind of learning curve did you guys experience?

Tilla loves pulling the sled! She was a little hesitant at first to pull extra weight behind her, so I needed to give her a kickstart and do some of the pushing myself. Once we pick up a little bit of speed, she takes that momentum and just goes! We're lucky in that she doesn't get too distracted by other dogs or things we're passing, otherwise we'd be stopping and starting a lot.

What type of kicksled do you have? What do you like about it?

I have the Traditional ESLA kicksled in a beautiful copper color. I love that it can work for many members of my family, if they want to kick or ride! My son (6 years old) can use the T6, even though it's a little tall for him. And both kiddos love to sit up front and enjoy the ride!

Do you have any tips or recommendations for people who are thinking about getting a kicksled to use with their dog?

Try it out at one of Jack the Pack's classes for the best experience, that what I did and it really helped me to get going.

Where are your favorite places to kicksled?

I had a lot of fun at Silverwood Park [St. Anthony, MN] going on the lake for a wide open space (when it was safe of course!), and Columbia Golf Course was a good place to practice with Tilla on groomed cross country ski trails.

Has kicksledding changed your relationship with winter?

I really started to look forward to snowfalls. Pre-kicksled it seemed like a big task to get the kids bundled and go to a sledding hill when I knew they'd lose interest after a few hill climbs, but with the kicksled and dog, there was so much more for us to do. We would make a whole afternoon of it, which made the preparations that much more worth it.

I also don't mind commuting to work on days with heavy snowfall because I ended up just taking my kicksled. I only work about a mile from home, and if there is a big enough snowfall and the streets seem well covered, I can kicksled my way there! I like exploring new areas around the Twin Cities on my kicksled. Also, before, Tilla only went on winter walks around the neighborhood, but once we were kicksledding, she was on all sorts of winter adventures!

Anything more you would add to help people who are thinking about getting into the sport?

It is such an easy sport to get into! You don't need any fancy winter gear to get started. Just some good cleats and layers.


Check out more Kicksledder Spotlights to see how other people are using their kicksleds to get more fun out of winter!

Kicksledding With Kids, Mushing, New to Kicksledding, Twin Cities - Published: