The Trail of '98 Sled Dog race from Skagway to Whitehorse has been canceled due to lack of interest by mushers.
Race organizers planned for at least a dozen entries, but only half that number committed by Wednesday's registration deadline.
The three-day stage event was set to begin with a ceremonial start in Skagway on Feb. 16.
"It's a real shame," race president Jo Hopkins said. "The considerable expense and the many hours of volunteer time required to put on a race was not justified by the small field."
While warm winter has hurt mushing in Alaska, Trail of '98 organizers anticipated good conditions in Canada. The international event covers about 120 miles - mostly in the Yukon Territory - broken into three segments.
The race purse was about $10,000.
The event brought mushing to Skagway and the Yukon towns of Carcross and Tagish, which have shown enthusiastic support since it began in 1998.
Haines musher Jim Stanford was looking forward to the race.
"Doggone, that's too bad," said Stanford, who won the sportsmanship award as Southeast's only competitor in last year's event. "I'm more disappointed for the people in the communities who put on the race. It takes a tremendous amount of work and fund raising.
"The mushers ... they just show up and run their dogs."
The race peaked at 20 mushers during its inaugural run in 1998 and dropped to 14 in 2000.
Skagway teachers Garrison and Jo Trozzo usually work with their students on a fund-raising dinner the night before the ceremonial start along historic Broadway. They were planning to make lasagna this year, with proceeds going to the school's national Close Up Program, which sends high school students to Washington, D.C.
Trozzo considers the dinner just a small part of the excitement and education of having the race start in Skagway. The younger students, who learn about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in their
Alaska history studies, get to see firsthand what they read about in books and see on television.
"Most kids love dogs and with this event they get to see them work as a team," she said. "They are going to be let down because they really look forward to being downtown and cheering on the mushers."
Skagway will at least be spared the expense of trucking snow down from the White Pass summit to make sure dog teams can run along Broadway.
Hopkins, who has helped organize the event since its inception, plans to step down as race president. She thinks the Trail of '98 - the only sled dog race that involves a Southeast Alaska community - may have come to a dead end.
"At this point, I don't think they plan to hold it next year," Hopkins said Wednesday from her Tagish home. "With the low number of entries, it doesn't seem like a popular race."
Mike Sica can be reached at email@example.com.
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