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Weather sinks Rondy World Championship
SLED DOG RACE: Safety concerns halt race for third time in eight years


By Beth Bragg
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: February 7, 2003)


For the second time in four years and the third time in eight years, Fur Rendezvous will be without its centerpiece event -- the World Championship Sled Dog Race.

Board members of the Alaska Sled Dog Racing Association voted unanimously Thursday night to cancel the three-day open race scheduled to begin two weeks from today.

Trail conditions pose too much of a risk for sprint-dog teams, which can reach speeds of 25 mph and higher, the board decided. Little snow, a lot of rain and a forecast that promises neither snow nor cooler temperatures convinced the board that conditions are unlikely to improve any time soon.

Corners on the trail have no edges, which means sleds traveling at high speeds may careen into trees along the trail. Some parts of the trail don't have any snow and other parts have snow too soft to grip an ice hook.

"I know there's gonna be complaints," race marshal Jerry Tokar said, "but there's not much you can do."

Board member Beverly Stevens said she ran a team of seven dogs at Tozier Track on Tuesday and wasn't encouraged by what she saw.

"I really had to slow down the team because it'd get soft suddenly, and that's not safe for dogs. Near the airstrip they sank down five or six inches and they were leaving standing water in their footprints."

And that was before two days of rain.

"It's so inconsistent," Stevens said. "I didn't know where to slow down or where to keep the speed."

At one point, Stevens said, she tried to stop her team with an ice hook but the snow was so slushy the team traveled another 12 feet before stopping. And that's with seven dogs. Most teams in the Fur Rondy open race are running 18 or more dogs.

Al Palma, who grooms trails for ASDRA, thinks the race could have been salvaged. He said the trails are "workable," although he said he wouldn't run a 22-dog team on them.

"I'd run 16 or 18," he said.

But Palma was less certain that the trails would hold up for three straight days of racing. The Fur Rondy open race consists of 25-mile heats on three consecutive days.

"The trail could deteriorate real quick in three days," he said. "It'd have to be a day-by-day judgment."

Board members, however, felt obligated to make a call on the race now so mushers and volunteers could make other plans. ASDRA relies on more than 100 volunteers on race days, and some of them take vacation time at work to help, said board member Susan Wagnon.

In other action Thursday night, the board voted to cancel this week's races at Tozier Track and to move the Fur Rondy Women's World Championship, scheduled to begin next weekend, to Feb. 21-23, the weekend the open race was supposed to be held.

Fewer mushers come from Outside for the women's race, board members said, and the races are shorter. The board will meet again next Thursday to decide whether the trails can handle the women's race.
 

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Pretty ragged weather up there this year. What's the Rondy pin look like for 2003?
 

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Haven't seen it

Yea the weather has been bad or strange. We got maybe 2 feet of heart attack snow this week. So heavy and wet you could not shovel the crap. I had a 2 cubic yard loader come in and clear the 300 foot driveway.
We have been above 30 for over a week and are looking at several more days of it.
 

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The temp's been pinging around the 30's here too the last few days. I need to get to my lease and check on the hog population, but all this employment is interfering with my recreation. Ya'll take care.
 

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Caribou Hunt Too

Looks like the winter caribou hunt is scratched too. :( This weekend is out and it's unlikely the Tuesday backup day will work either. :cry: Time to start thinking about Spring blackies... :)
 
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