Dogsledding is one of the most sought-after winter activities for Park City visitors. The tours sell out months in advance and there are lengthy waitlists for most of the season. But dogsledding isn’t just something that tourists do over a winter trip to Park City. For one Peoa family, it’s a way of life that has propelled them to international success on the sled dog racing circuit.

Park City native Fernando Ramirez comes from a long line of vaqueros, or Mexican horsemen. His parents taught him to value and appreciate animals, which led to his interest in dogs and dogsledding. However, Fernando’s mother had one rule: his dogs had to be rescued from the shelter. And thus, a lifelong mission was born. His family ranch, Rancho Luna Lobos, is first and foremost “a therapeutic destination for Northern breeds,” including Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies and a few wolf hybrids.

They currently have around 90 dogs at the ranch, 85 percent of which are rescues or surrenders, and there are another 48 dogs waitlisted to join the ranch. Some of the dogs are natural sled dogs and join Fernando’s racing team. Others are part of the ranch’s tours or classes. And still others become ranch dogs or are put up for adoption, although Fernando is extremely picky when it comes to placing his dogs in a new home.

The entire operation is funded by Fernando’s dogsled races and Rancho Luna Lobos’ tours and classes via the ranch’s nonprofit arm, Sledding For Hope. As Fernando says, “It’s a labor of love, everything we make goes back into the dogs.”

A typical day at the ranch starts around 5:30 a.m. because the dogs need at least two hours of playtime and exercise before the morning tours can begin. After a full day of tours and training exercises, the day ends around 10 or 11 p.m. Fortunately, the Ramirez family has a team that helps keep the ranch running smoothly.

Fernando and his wife, Dana, have five kids between the ages of 4 and 13. The entire family is part of the operation and all the kids but the youngest have driven sleds. The oldest three kids have competed on the dogsledding circuit and the eldest child, Gabriel, is already proving to be quite the musher, with an almost telepathic relationship with his team. Fernando says he will likely take over the racing team in just a few years.

Until then, Fernando will continue to lead the racing team. They recently competed in Sweden and Spain — taking eighth place in the former. For Fernando, the most rewarding part of his work is watching a rescue dog go from the shelter to representing the U.S. on an international stage.

If you want to see the operation for yourself, there are plenty of ways to do so. Winter experiences at Rancho Luna Lobos include a dogsled tour, a snowshoe hike with the dogs, a kennel tour and mushing school.