The first thing you’ll notice as you step out of your car is the excited barking of the dogs; many, many dogs! This 2-day event features teams of 8, 6, or 4 dogs pulling sleds (hopefully with human musher still aboard) along a track up to 8 miles long.
Skijoring events are also part of the excitement. You don’t know what Skijoring is? Have you ever strapped on a pair of cross-country skis and tried skiing with a dog or two on a leash? Sometimes they pull you; sometimes (on the downhill), you end up ahead of the dogs. And sometimes everyone ends up sprawled in the snow. Well, Skijoring works something like that, but these dogs and drivers manage the whole affair with much more grace and speed (and more appropriate equipment than a leash and collar).
These animals are selected because they love racing, and it really shows. You’ll see the “traditional” breeds such as Siberian Husky and Malamute, and Samoyed, but also many mixed breeds. Some teams will bring along a puppy or two just to expose them to the fun and excitement of the racing environment, so they’ll start to get an idea of what to expect when they mature.
Like human athletes, sled dogs must train to build up their aerobic stamina, muscle strength, and to learn to work as a team (including the other dogs and their human driver). Good sled dogs love to run, and love to win. There will be no doubt in your mind that these animals are really into their sport when you see them being strapped into a harness, and when the musher has to hold them back at the starting line of a race. They can’t wait to run!
Humans and dogs have been working together with this mode of transportation for thousands of years. Sled dogs played a significant role in arctic and Antarctic exploration, and sometimes also made the ultimate sacrifice by becoming food for their starving human companions. In 1925, sled dog teams made it possible to save countless human lives when they helped deliver an emergency supply of diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska after an outbreak there. The teams had to travel over 600 miles of difficult and extremely treacherous terrain to deliver their precious cargo.
Please leave your own pet at home when you attend the races. You’ll be able to walk among the dog teams leashed by their kennels, but ask permission of the owners before approaching the animals. Remember, they’re here to race, and having strangers come over to pet them can be distracting.
You can learn more about this fun sport on the web at the site for the International Sled Dog Racing Association or at one of the resources listed below.
Lone Cone Conquest races
* We originally wrote this article after attending the Colorado Blue Ididarace in Kremmling. The bad news: that particular event doesn’t seem to be scheduled any more. The good news: many other dog sled and skijoring races are scheduled each winter in the high country. One is the Lone Cone Conquest (see link above). Check the other links for current race schedules.