Born a farmer. Lives to mush.
Stein Håvard Fjestad is one of Norway’s most experienced competitors in long distance sled dog racing. In 1977 he was the first European to participate in the Iditarod, a 1000-mile sled dog race across the Alaskan wilderness. Over the past forty years he has been competing at the highest level of sled dog racing. He runs several long distance races throughout the winter months, with a focus on Finnmarksløpet: Europe’s longest and the world's northernmost sled dog race, which takes place in Norway. More than fifteen times he crossed Finnmarks finish line. With many top-10 finishes and two victories to his name, he is a well-respected sportsman to the scene.
Man's best friend
The musher was born in Stange, in 1954. He grew up on the family farm, watching his father grow onions, potatoes and carrots: one day, he would follow in his footsteps. When he was a teenager, he borrowed his sisters doberman pinscher Bonnie for ski trips in the mountains. Bonnie was a great sled dog but no match for the cold; even mothers handmade sleeping bag couldn't compensate her lack of fur. At age 16 he bought his first husky but ran her so often as a pup, that the dog was done pulling by the time she grew up. The following years he borrowed several dogs from neighbors and often made overnight trips with them, sometimes together with friends. He loved being outdoors and the dogs where great companion. In those days, there was no one around to learn from, he had to figure out the principles of dogsledding by himself. Adventure books about North-America and the Iditarod, inspired him to travel to Alaska to compete in 'The last great race'. He was 22 when he drove those 1000 miles, with 16 dogs borrowed from mushers all over Alaska.
Back in Norway he bought a few huskies and bred them with other dogs he knew. When he took over the farm in 1982, his dog yard rapidly extended and by then he was one of the very few mushers who competed in the Finnmarksløpet, which was first arranged in 1981. The symbiotic relationship between him and his dogs, together with his love of nature, drove him to continue mushing and racing. Between 1984 and 1998 he had a kennel based in Åstdalen and brought tourists along on overnight trips with a sled. With great pride, he showed them his country and shared his knowledge about nature and dogsledding. He enjoyed being together with people from all over the world and showing them what he could achieve with his dogs.
One day in 1989, he was out with his dogs and his musher-friends Torgeir Øren and Odd Kjøsnes. By a bonfire at the Femunden lake that night, the idea of a long distance sled dog race in southern Norway was born. They wanted the race to take place the following winter and got in touch with partners to cooperate. And with success: the first Femundløpet (The Femund Race), took place in 1990 and has been one of the major sled dog races ever since.
For almost four decades, Stein Håvards life has centered around sled dog racing and growing onions. His onion farm grew to be one of the biggest in Norway and has made it possible for him to continue pursuing his sled dog passion. Bright yellow paint on his striking red dog mushing camper makes it clear there can not be one without the other - it states: 'Et mer lauk.'
Eat more onion.