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Sled-dogs make for mushing in Colorado backcountry. (Attitude/Altitude).

JEFF MARTIN USED TO BE A COMputer software programmer. Now he spends his time in the Colorado backcountry tending to 51 Siberian and Alaska huskies that literally run his business.

Martin and his wife, Tracie, own and operate Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park, which offers 10-mile, two hour treks through the forests of Fraser Valley. Passengers behind the eight-dog teams are treated not only to an exhilarating ride at 20 miles per hour, but to a bit of local lore. Sled drivers stop and point out moose and wild animal tracks, offer some history of the Fraser Valley, and identify landmarks like the Continental Divide and surrounding peaks.

The Martins met and fell in love with dogs, mushing and presumably with each other while working for 2 1/2 years for one of the original sled-dog tour operations in Colorado, Krabloonik Restaurant & Kennel, which still does a brisk business in Snowmass with about 250 dogs.

The pair married, and after a two-year stint in Greeley, where Tracie completed her degree in therapeutic recreation, the Martins bought Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park from some Fraser locals a year ago. Last winter they enjoyed the best year in the operation's 13 years, with revenues of $100,000.

"It's been really good for us," says Tracie, 28, who has a keen interest in animal-facilitated therapy and puts it to good use by providing rides to wheelchair-bound customers. "We're probably never going to get extremely wealthy doing this, but it's doing something we like to do, and our dogs are happy. They're doing something they like to do."

As for Jeff, feeding, training and cleaning up after dogs is about as physical as computer programming was cerebral. But Trade says her 30-year-old husband much prefers the dog's life.

"Are you kidding?" she says. "He loves it. He gets to play with dogs all day."

That's not to say Jeff's computer skills don't still come in handy. He designed a Web site that shows many of the dog-sled tour businesses in North America, including 11 in Colorado. And he uses the computer to keep track of his dogs' daily mileage, food consumption and other important health facts.

The sled-dog season coincides with the ski season, usually Thanksgiving through mid-April, and the Martins have their dogs in top form for what they hope will be another record-breaking winter. Colorado's tourism industry is expected to have a rough winter with the drop in vacation air travel, but the Martins figure to be hurt less than most because their business is only a 1 1/2-hour drive from Denver.

"We're very young into it, but we're coming into it with a love of dogs and a love of the sport," Tracie says.
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Author:Taylor, Mike
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:456
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