Sled dog race organizers wait for more entrants

Posted: Sunday, January 14, 2001

JUNEAU -- The only sled dog race that involves a Southeast Alaska community may not be run this year due to a lack of mushers.

Organizers want at least 15 entries by Jan. 31 or they will cancel the Fourth Annual Trail of '98 Sled Dog Race, scheduled to begin with a ceremonial start in Skagway on Feb. 16.

Seven mushers had signed up as of Friday. Despite a warm and wet winter in Alaska, lack of snow does not appear to be a problem for an international event with a finish line in Whitehorse.

"The trails are in excellent shape and the conditions are the best we've ever had, but we can't have a race without mushers," event organizer Jo Hopkins said from Whitehorse.

She believes the low interest is the result of an error in Team and Trail, an American sled dog racing publication, which reported the purse at $5,000 Canadian instead of $15,000, or about $10,000 in U.S. currency.

Race organizers contacted media outlets last week about the correct purse amount, which includes more than $2,600 for the winner and prize money for the top eight finishers.

After media reports of the purse, mushers started signing up, Hopkins said.

"We've got seven for sure and apparently more are coming," she said.

The staged race covers about 120 miles over three days. Following a ceremonial start in Skagway, with snow trucked in from the White Pass summit if necessary, the teams are transported along the Klondike Highway to the Yukon town of Carcross to begin the three legs. The race peaked with 20 mushers during its inaugural run in 1998 and dropped to a low of 14 last year.

More than half of last year's field included Alaskans, such as former Iditarod champion Dean Osmar and two-time Yukon Quest winner John Schandelmeier.

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