Organizers Move Sled Dog Race Course

By Beacon Staff

Organizers of the first annual Flathead Sled Dog Days shifted their race venue from Olney to the head of Whitefish Lake due to plowing on the Olney Crossover Road. The race will now start and finish on the Upper Whitefish Lake Road, a popular local snowmobile trail that departs from East Lakeshore Drive in Whitefish.

“We invite people to come watch start and finish,” says organizer Katie Davis. “But parking is tight, so carpooling is highly recommended.” Snowmobilers on the west side of the Whitefish Divide may have the best seats in the house, as the new course follows the road toward Upper Whitefish Lake and loops around Stryker Ridge.

Changes in entries leave 27 dog sled teams from as far away as Saskatchewan, Colorado, and Wisconsin—including a few Iditarod competitors–vying for first place. Most of the dogs competing are Alaskan huskies. “They’re a pedigreed Heinz 57 mutt bred for athleticism, rather than looks,” explains Davis. “They’re smaller than what most people expect. Most weight between 45-60 pounds.” But five Siberian husky teams and one Samoyed team from Washington will also compete. Both are larger breeds.

Add up the dogs in teams of six or 12, and you have 250-300 dogs barking, yapping, and hopping around. For that reason, Davis advises onlookers to leave their pets at home for the events. “It’s just really dangerous to bring your pet dogs when the dogs are all crazy ready to race,” says Davis, who owns 16 Alaskan huskies herself.

The event begins Friday, Jan. 4, at the Armory for a veterinarian check at 3 p.m. “Kids might enjoy dropping by after school to watch the vet check,” says Davis. The public is also welcome to meet the dogs at 6 p.m. during the musher meeting and bib draw.

Dogs race out of the chute each morning on Jan. 5-6. The race starts at 8 a.m. with the 12-dog teams departing at 8 a.m. at two-minute intervals for the first stage of their 100-mile race. After a 20 minute break, the six-dog teams head out for the first half of their 50 miles. Davis predicts the fastest teams will be returning to the start by 11 a.m.

For more info, check out www.flatheadsleddogdays.com.