Flathead Sled Dog Days Return for Second Year

By Beacon Staff

A day after New Year’s, more than a hundred dogs will converge on Stillwater State Forest. They’re ready to run.

Following a successful first year, organizers for the Flathead Sled Dog Days – a weekend of dog sledding races – are ready for round two. Brooke Bohannon, one of the organizers, said she is expecting a solid turnout again, though fewer than last year. Participants who have to travel long distances, Bohannon said, are less likely to make the trip because of the slow economic times.

At least 15 mushers with their teams of dogs are expected to compete, Bohannon said.

“We’re really impressed with the amount of mushers we’re getting this year,” Bohannon said, “and the amount of support from the community and local businesses despite the economic situation.”

Flathead Sled Dog Days has two divisions: a 50-mile race and a 100-mile race. The teams have either six or 12 dogs each and will cover 25 or 50 miles per day, depending on the race. The races begin at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at the Olney snowmobile trailhead, located at mile marker 145.5 on U.S. Highway 93. The route takes them through Stillwater Forest, weaving along trails up and over Stryker Ridge.

The public is invited to watch the start and finish of the races for free, but they are asked not to bring their pet dogs for safety reasons.

Before the races even begin, however, Flathead Sled Dog Days has a full schedule on Friday. Following the veterinarian check-in for the dogs at 11 a.m., there will be a dog skijoring demonstration by the Glacier Outdoor Center at 1 p.m. at Whitefish’s Depot Park. In skijoring, a person is pulled on cross country skis by a dog or multiple dogs.

Then at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish, there will be a silent auction with original artwork and gift certificates from a variety of local businesses. Also, in the O’Shaughnessy’s lobby, booths will be set up by Tailwaggers, Whitefish Backcountry and the Glacier Outdoor Center. During these events, visitors have the chance to meet the mushers and dogs. On Sunday, there will be an awards banquet at the Buffalo Café at 4 p.m.

This year’s races feature mushers from several states and Canada, with a few from the Flathead. Butch and Sara Parr of Whitefish will each have their own team in the competitions. Also, two participants are from Condon: Steve Riggs and Wendy Arrotta.

There are a handful of returning mushers, including several of the top finishers. Robin Beall, last year’s 12-dog winner, has two teams entered this year. Also, Arrotta placed fifth in the six-dog race and the Parrs finished high in their respective events, with Butch coming in second in the 12-dog division and Sara finishing fourth in the six-dog.

Along with Bohannon, the other two organizers are Sean Hard and Katie Davis. Visit www.flatheadsleddogdays.com for more information or call 881-3200. You can also reach the organizers at [email protected].