IN THE RUFF
Manitoba was a small Métis community accessible only
by the Hudson Bay Rail line during the early 1960s.
A young boy sat waiting for family to return to their trap-line
camp with fresh provisions. Occasionally, sled dogs would
be left behind
..he always relied on his dogs during
the tough times, they were his best friends.
is only one of many stories that lie buried in the heart of
a well respected Manitoba musher
.Gerald Roy Azure.
abound that valuable minerals lie beneath the terrain of the
North. In the meantime tourists and media from around the
world are catching a glimpse of Churchills incredible
polar bears, northern lights and beluga whales along with
Manitobas Diamond in the Ruff.There are very few traditional
mushers left. More efficient forms of transportation have
taken over. But before you jump to conclusions that one of
the last of these Northern Mushers are against progress
Azure has his own unique perspective as he understands the
land and the importance of balance. The genealogy of his aboriginal
heritage reveals a family history that extends back into the
1600s on his fathers side. Every day he juggles
the responsibilities and challenges of a modern society while
maintaining that all important connection with the past and
the land by dog team. He was forced to adapt by running his
dogs on carts with wheels now that the snow comes later in
has a formal education and a keen business sense. As an experienced
Canadian Ranger he is a unique and vital component of the
Canadian Forces. Key stakeholders in transportation and tourism
industries have worked with him, to help sustain the community
of Churchill Manitoba.
is a simple man who derives pleasure from living in harmony
with his environment and has avoided some of the trappings
of modern society. In 2000 Gerald arrived in Churchill Manitoba
by train and he recalls he instantly felt at home. He began
running a few dogs alongside his best friend while they both
worked hard to build their tourism businesses. Gerald is fortunate
the remoteness and isolation of this unique environment still
allow him to retain a very important part of his Métis
history, culture and heritage.
warp fast forward
.almost 40 years later the young boy,
now a grown man, operates Bluesky Expeditions and Bluesky
Bed & Sled as he shares the valuable lessons he has learned
in life with his guests. When you enter the world of this
musher, something sounds, feels and looks different. The words
"last chance line" brings guests to their senses
as he points to the rope outstretched behind the sled.
but humble, Gerald remains calm and patient as he hooks up
his excited team. The dogs do not cower when he approaches
to harness them. Instead their excited four legged body language
authenticates their love and respect for him. This does not
go unnoticed by onlookers --Mush! Is the only word spoken
now -- as the team sets paws down the trail. The Northern
experience takes hold. Sounds quickly changing from dogs
panting to the gentle but firm commands of the ice laden mustached
musher. Nothing matters except the dog team and the incredible
terrain that lies ahead. Stressful urban thought patterns
disappear as you are lulled into "northern mush"
by the beauty and tranquility of the northern boreal forest.
No urban congested traffic here, only the basic elements of
a dogsled ride or kennel tour to your itinerary on your next
summer or winter visit to Churchill, Manitoba. Gerald Azure
is an authentic "Diamond in the Ruff". Alongside
his dog team he has established a solid reputation for responsible
eco-tourism, based on integrity and hard-work in this spectacular
natural environment known for its polar bear and beluga
join Bluesky for a truly un"fur"gettable
Bluesky our sled dogs are like family
like to introduce you to a few of our favorites:
..THE BLIND SLED DOG
suddenly became blind while running a tour in January 2005.
Her owner Gerald Azure and partner Jenafor Ollander flew her
to a vet in Winnipeg who suspected she was blind. Upon
her return to Churchill she could no longer run as a sled
..but refused to give up. Unable to adapt to living
at home, she missed her sled dog companions and became depressed,
and stopped eating and drinking.
brought her back to the dog yard and Isobel demanded to be
hooked up! Isobel is one of the highlights of Bluesky Expeditions,
and during the 2006 & 2007 Polar Bear seasons, thousands
of guests from all over the world had the opportunity to meet
her and watch her running tours.
is living canine proof that patience, hard work, and determination
can help overcome physical disabilities, and contribute a
great deal to their team given the opportunity. She continues
to run tours with Bluesky Expeditions and can be found hiking
the beaches of the Hudson Bay with guests of Bluesky Bed &
Sled in the summer.
is the alpha male dog of the Bluesky Expeditions Team
he is our 4 legged leader and best friend. He has been running
tours since 2001 and competed in 3 Hudson Bay Quests with
race co-founder Gerald Azure. In 2006, after a grueling last
30 miles in a snowstorm, he led Gerald and his team safely
to the finish line, at which time Gerald, knelt down beside
Thunder and whispered
."never again buddy
continues to be a valuable team member as a retired sled dog
much to the delight of our guests! A gentle natured canine,
he lives everyday to be at the side of his musher. Both Gerald
and Thunder have been featured in documentaries and TV shows
throughout Canada and Internationally. Like Gerald, Thunder
knows the land
.and can be seen be his side on "high"
.for any Polar Bears who may be in the area.