Britain’s only daily working sled-dog centre is shutting its doors because of climate change.
Cairngorm Sled-dog Centre owner Alan Stewart said there was simply not enough snow to continue.
He and his wife Fiona – who have welcomed Sir David Attenborough and Bear Grylls to their centre at Rothiemurchus Estate, near Aviemore, over their 19 years of operation – will call it a day in April.
“Climate change has finished us off,” said Mr Stewart, 64.
“I could see it coming six years ago. There is no snow – it’s not rocket science.
“We moved from the west coast 20 years ago because we could get five months of snow – now we just have mud.
“To train dogs professionally you need several months of snow – but even in Europe you cannot get enough snow.
“In British Columbia – where my son raced two years ago – they are having to ship in snow by lorries.
“I don’t see a future for Scottish ski resorts – skiing in Scotland is finished, completely and utterly finished.
“I have 20 dogs left and my youngest is 10 years old and they will stay with me until they die – 100% .”
To mark the end of an era, Mr Stewart – who works as an offshore diving supervisor – is hosting an evening with friends and some of the world’s leading winter explorers, mushers and divers at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort in Aviemore next week.
Come April, the adventure centre will return back to its original use as solely for kennels where Mr Stewart’s remaining Alaskan husky sled-dogs will live out the rest of their days.
He said: “Climate change started affecting the centre and the last few years the temperatures have been rising even quicker.
“Conditioning the dogs for winter takes around two months but they do not run in temperatures over 10 degrees centigrade.
“These days the trails never get the chance to dry up and trees come down due to soft ground. We even train with a chainsaw on board.
“I sold the snowmobile six years ago just after the last time we had snow that lasted for a fortnight.
“Ever since then, if it snows it melts within a day, turning the tracks into mud.
“The dog yard never dries out and it really has been a 24/7 job to keep going.”
Mr Stewart was assisted by his son John in the biggest sled-dog race in South America, spanning 650 miles in Argentina, when John was aged 11.
The Stewarts have worked with sled-dogs from some of the best lines in the world from Canada and the United States for nearly 30 years.
Ahead of the farewell event on February 8, Mr Stewart said: “The event is to mark the end of the sled-dog centre with some of my close friends coming from all over Europe.
“I’m very lucky in life when it comes to human friends and great dogs.
“The main thing it that it’s a great way to remember all my wonderful canines dead or alive who made the centre.
“It’s been a massive privilege.”