DIAMOND IN THE RUFF…
Cormorant, Manitoba was a small Métis community accessible only by the Hudson Bay Rail line during the early 1960’s. 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.

This is only one of many stories that lie buried in the heart of a well respected Manitoba musher….Gerald Roy Azure.

Rumors 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 Churchill’s incredible polar bears, northern lights and beluga whales along with Manitoba’s 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 Musher’s are against progress……paws please!

Gerald 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 1600’s on his father’s 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 the year.

Gerald 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.

Gerald 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.

Time 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.

Proud 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 dog’s 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 nature.

Add 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 it’s polar bear and beluga whale watching……join Bluesky for a truly un"fur"gettable experience.


At Bluesky our sled dogs are like family…..we would like to introduce you to a few of our favorites:

ISOBEL…..THE BLIND SLED DOG
Isobel 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 dog…..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.

Gerald 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.

Isobel 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.


THUNDER
Thunder 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….you are retired!"

Thunder 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" alert….for any Polar Bears who may be in the area.