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“Great experience”

Just Short of Magic
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: We offer dog sled rides ranging from a half-hour to one-and-a-half hours. Tour the beautifully forested Alaskan winter trails on a dog sled or drive the team. Our Dog Mushing School offers customized dog mushing lessons. Sled rides or lessons can be combined with educational kennel tours. Learn about amazing canine athletes, mushing equipment, and what it means to be a musher.
Salt Lake City, Utah
1 review
“Great experience”
Reviewed 29 March 2014

Eleanor's dogs were great and the highlight of a week-long vacation to Fairbanks. She obviously treats her dogs like family which makes it a special experience to hang out with them. We even came back the next day just to play with the dogs some more. Riding on the trail was also a blast. I've already recommended her to all of my dog-friends.

Visited March 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Amazing Alaskan Experience!”
Reviewed 29 March 2014

I enjoyed a trip to JSOM back in January on an unusually warm winter day (warm meaning about 10-15 above....this is Alaska folks) and the hours I spent with Eleanor and her fabulous dogs remain one of the coolest things I've done in my life! Eleanor very obviously loves and cares for all her animals. She also took equally excellent care of us humans.

We started the experience off in her toasty yurt, warming up and getting all the right gear (she keeps extra hats/gloves.etc in case you are cold weather challenged). Since we selected the mushing school, the next task was to go outside and meet all the dogs. You'll have time to play and pet them. They are adorable and SO EXCITED. (It's as if they are all telling you, I love running and I love you! Pick me! Pick me!") Together with Eleanor, she gives you the lowdown on the dogs personalities/histories, the various roles of each dog on the sled, and together you select the dogs for the next ride. She then teaches you how to harness each dog and get them on the line. This was the trickiest part but you'll get the hang of it quickly.

Once the dogs are ready on the line, she'll put you and your co-pilot into the sled. At first Eleanor drives so you can enjoy the view. The moment of take-off is amazing. In barely an instant, bouncy, yelping huskies become unwaveringly determined and focused workhorses, and before you know it you are gliding along the trail. It's fascinating to be on the sled -- the view, the trail, dogs, the constant non-verbal communication between driver and dogs -- truly special and unique things to behold.

After you've enjoyed a bit of the trail, you and your partner can take turns driving (if you got the school option). Eleanor will teach you the physical and verbal commands, and then you're off! This is one of the best parts of the experience.

You'll end the day taking photos, taking the dogs off harness (if there are no further teams) and settling back in the yurt for a delicious cup of cocoa. We had an opportunity to sit and chat with Eleanor for a while and learned more about mushing.

I think we paid for two hours, but ended up staying for a little longer. Eleanor didn't charge us any extra though we stayed for awhile, which I thought was very kind of her. We did give the dogs a tip however :) (seriously, tips go directly to dog-related care).

Dress warm, and do not miss this if you are coming to Fairbanks!

Visited January 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
16 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Fun ride!”
Reviewed 28 March 2014

We had never been dog sledding before and honestly, as a vegetarian and animal lover, I was skeptical about it. But, once we got there and saw Eleanor and Bill with the dogs, it was such a different feel. They were loving and caring towards the huskies and anyone can tell that the dogs absolutely love what they do. They were all howling when then were hooked up to the sled, ready to go. As soon as they were told to go, they went silent and started running and pulling the sled through the snowy woods. It was such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you get the chance to visit Fairbanks, you will be missing out if you don't take a ride with this experienced musher!

P.S. bathroom facilities is an outhouse. Didn't bother me but just good to know.

Visited March 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Level Contributor
24 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Musings from a parallel universe”
Reviewed 19 March 2014

I am really envious that the world I live in is not the same as the one inhabited by those lucky, happy people who gave this business glowing reviews. I guess my group fell through a hole in the time/space continuum and encountered Eleanor's alter ego.

Our party of four arrived early for a 3:30 pm one hour scheduled ride. No one was at the site. A short time later a party of two arrived for their 3:30 pm reservation. About 4:30 pm Eleanor and another driver brought in two sleds with passengers. Eleanor told us a neighbor had pushed a pile of snow onto the trail. It had to be removed before the trail could be used. She and her helper dug it out, and that's why they were late. Eleanor said she wasn't angry at the neighbor since he was always drunk and probably didn't know what he was doing. What a wonderful example of passive/aggressive forbearance and a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Eleanor also said that our party of four could not go at the same time, since she needed one of the sleds for mushing lessons for the other two people. (Which, of course, provides substantially more income than sled rides.) I explained that we had booked transportation to the site and wait time was $60 an hour extra. Eleanor told me it doesn't do any good to pout. That it was all about attitude, and that we would work it out. I learned that the proper attitude was whatever benefited Eleanor.

Since we had already invested $100 in transit, we all adapted the proper attitude and agreed that each couple in our party would take a 30-minute ride, instead of an hour, with one couple waiting until the other returned. Since the shorter rides cost less, that would make up for the waiting time costs. We got a 30-minute ride for the price of an hour ride. What a wonderful compromise.

There was never a mention of why Eleanor booked six people for the same time when she had capabilities for only four. There was never a mention of reimbursement for waiting time, since it was not our fault that we had to wait. Of course, according to Eleanor's story, it wasn't her fault, either. Still, even an offer of partial reimbursement would have helped a lot.

It is experiences like this that make me wish there really was a parallel world where business people treated customers with fairness, consideration and respect. Oh, wait, there is. See my reviews of Joyce Kelso's Adventures North Aurora Borealis viewing, Pike's Waterfront Lodge and The Cookie Jar Restaurant. All examples of the way a business should be run.

Visited March 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Eleanor W, Owner at Just Short of Magic, responded to this review, 26 March 2014
The response to this review is designed to avoid the unfortunate volley of “He-said; She-said” which is usually fruitless. Instead the approach will address a number of points that are worth making corrections about. I feel what is most important to respond to are few of the details that are inaccurate and to clarify my intentions/considerations where they are expressed according the reviewers interpretation and not reality.

There is no doubt that this was a very difficult day on many fronts; by late in the afternoon when these two couples came for their tour the combination of their temperaments and my stress resulted in an experience for them that was far from the norm here at Just Short of Magic.

My hope is that the following will unveil a bigger picture and soften a bit of the harshness that is expressed here.

Detail correction: This tour went out late because a portion of the trail had been obstructed with a snow burm; it was imperative that it be removed before further tours continued. My mushing partner and I took the snow machine (not dog sleds) and two shovels and cleared the trail. We were out repairing the trail when these couples arrived. Had I left the other musher behind to greet them my work would have taken much longer.

Interpretation correction: As we were pulling in from trail maintenance I saw right away that a transport company was here and my heart sank knowing that not only had these guests been waiting, but they were also going to be paying for the extra wait time. I felt terrible inside, but had to keep moving to get the number of people waiting on with their tours. My feelings and my thoughts did not match with the expression I shared with these guests when I encountered them and realized I had difficult personalities to deal with.

Detail correction: I explained why we were late and that I was distressed about the unexpected obstruction of the trail. It was not necessary or appropriate to express the frustration I felt for my neighbor to these guests. I have since spoken with my neighbor, his family, and a few of the other men who work with him about the importance of keeping their wood cutting operation clear of this public trail. This trail also happens to be part of the famous historic Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race trail and must be kept in operable order. They were very apologetic, explained that the snow burm had meant to be temporary, that their equipment had broken down and therefore were unable to move it as quickly as they had planned. They have assured me it would not happen again. There have been no further incidences.

Detail correction: Regarding the comment about shortening their tour; it was now 4:30 in the afternoon, limited day light was becoming an issue, I had a number of other guests to also accommodate, but mostly I was thinking about the concern I had that they were still paying for the waiting transport company. If we shortened their tour maybe we could make up some of this wait time and therefore financially this would not be so stressful. Of course I did not charge them for the hour tour when they had a half-hour tour.

Detail response: Regarding the comment about attitude and pouting: For many years I was a high school science teacher; once in a while when I am really provoked some of my old ways of dealing with difficult behavior surface. I think this was one of those times. In hindsight I realize it was probably not appropriate as I am dealing with adults in a business setting.

Detail correction: Each sled can hold two people, couples always go together in one sled, and most of the time two couples will go out on the trail at the same time. On the rare occasion that this doesn't happen it's usually not a problem. There is a lovely warm yurt here were people can wait, there is hot tea and cocoa to enjoy, lots of photo taking opportunities, and our happy, friendly sled dogs are always available for patting and spending time with. This was all available to these couples as well.

Detail correction: Regarding the comment about the tour expense differences and how it benefited Just Short of Magic to give the mushing school guests priority over the hour tour for these guests: the math is very simple. It would have been financially more beneficial for Just Short of Magic to take four people on a one-hour tour then it was to reduce their tour to a half hour while also trying to accommodate our guests who had booked a two-hour mushing school. I had to make compromises for everybody and this seemed the best way to accommodate a number of tours/people simultaneously. Had I also put off our mushing school guests in order to take these two couples for their one-hour tour, our school guests would have waited over two hrs; this was not a wise consideration.

Detail response: Regarding a reimbursement to accommodate them for their wait time: It may be that I didn’t think on my feet fast enough, maybe I thought everybody had to compromise here a bit and work around a difficult situation, maybe I thought we had made up the difference by shortening the tour and therefore what I thought was their overall expense….I’m not sure all of what happened during those final moments of their visit. What would be fine with me is if these people would feel better because I offered them a reduced price for their tour, I would be glad to do that.

Let me close by saying that I am aware that this tour was not ideal in a number of ways and that if these guests would ever return I expect their experience here would be much different. I apologize to these guests for this unfortunate situation. On the other hand, I love what I do. I love the guests who come here. I love my dogs. I love this glorious wilderness that I share with so many people. And as you can see by the many other reviews, for the most part we have a great time!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
20 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Highlight of our Fairbanks trip”
Reviewed 19 March 2014

the five of us took two shifts to ride the sleds since they have only two sleds. But the wait was worth it. The dogs were wonderful, friendly, and all pumped up with adrenaline. Once let go, they dashed ahead at 20 MPH, though the sled seemed to fly at much higher speed. It was after a snow fall and the trees were blanketed with new snow, and the forest scene was beautiful. The folks there were very friendly and helpful. They even have coats and boots for guests that were not as well equipped. All five of us agreed that it was the highlight of our trip as the aurora did not show up as spectacularly as we wished.

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
Thank nghk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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