Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Michigan Dog Sled Racing Season Begins

K. Johnston - EAGLE FI

Jan. 12, 2010 - Watching the mass of barking, whining and jumping unruly dogs in the starting shoot it’s hard to imagine them ever working as any sort of team. It looks like chaos but when the starter yells “GO!” the dogs are instantly silent and focused. The only sound you hear is the sliding of well waxed sled skis and gentle thumps of dog paws digging into the packed snow surface of the trail.

Courtney Frank of Lodi, OH and her six dog team crest the courses first hill at the inaugural Lake Louise/Thumb Lake Sled Dog Race.

Plenty of snow and cold temperatures were perfect for the opening weekend of the Michigan sled dog racing season. This past weekends inaugural running of the Lake Louise/Thumb Lake sprint races in Boyne Falls (south of Petoskey) and the Tehquamenon distance races at the Upper Peninsula’s Rainbow Lodge north of Newberry were the first of twenty-five scheduled Michigan events including one of the lower 48’s longest running.

Next weekends 45th running of the Midwest International Dog Sled Race at the Kalkaska Winterfest will continue the events legacy of being the oldest, continuously run sled dog race in the state and second oldest in the lower 48. A sprint race, the event also includes a weight pulling competition and is the only race in the state that will include an unlimited/open class where musher’s can run any number and combination of dogs they wish.

The two main types of sled dog events are sprint and distance races. Sprint races are generally shorter in length, less than ten miles, and include several different classes that are defined by the number and breed of dogs in the team. The length of the sprint courses vary within the same event based on the number of dogs allowed in the team.

A 12 dog team competes in a 2006 Tehquamenon distance race FILE PHOTO - EAGLE FI

Distance races also have different classes determined by the number of dogs in the teams but race lengths can be a hundred miles or more and last for several days. The largest distance race in the Michigan is the U.P. 200 that runs a 240 mile course from Marquette to Grand Marais and back. Run in the latter half of February the 200 hundred draws world-class racers and teams that can use their participation in the race as an Iditarod qualifier.

Other races of note on the Michigan schedule include the fan popular Mackinaw Mush in Mackinaw City, the Atlanta 45th Parallel Sled Dog Race, the Jack Pine 30 in Gwinn the upper peninsula’s Kinross Classic. Midwest race schedules and links to individual race websites can be found online at www.sleddogcentral.com

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