Dog Mushing
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Dog Mushing,Husky
Official Alaska State Sport

Mushers - There are two types: sprint mushers and distance mushers.

Sprint mushers run shorter courses at faster speeds than the distance mushers who run the Iditarod or Yukon Quest.

Iditarod Sled Dog RaceThe Iditarod Sled Dog Race, held every first Saturday in March in Alaska since 1973, has popularized the sport.  Mushers come to Alaska from other parts of the United States, and have even won the event. Every winter Europeans come to Fairbanks to train on the hundreds of miles of well-groomed trails. The race as a ceremonial start in Anchorage, then the restart occurs somewhere else.

Dog Mushing in preparation for the Yukon QuestThe 1,000 mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is the biggest long-distance race of the year in Fairbanks. Run in February, its trail ran in the Canada-to-Alaska direction in 1998 to commemorate the 1898 Gold Rush, although it usually switches directions between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Canada, every year. Check out our February calendar for more information on this year's race.

[Photograph of training run for the Yukon Quest is courtesy of David Arlan Rogers]

There are two more major dog mushing events in Fairbanks, both held in March. The first is the Limited North American Championship, a three-day series of sprint sled dog and skijoring (skiers pulled by dogs) races. Some excellent photographs of skijoring can be found from links at the above site.

The second is the oldest continuously run sled dog race. It is the Open North American Championship, a three-day series of races beginning and ending in downtown Fairbanks, which draws the world's fastest mushers. Follow this link for our dog mushing schedules.

For those really into dog mushing:
Many residents keep two or more dogs for recreational mushing, Mushing is a year around activity. When there is no snow, mushers exercise and train their dogs using sleds with wheels. Some mushers use a dog "merry-go-round," such as you would see on the Riverboat Discovery trip, to keep the dogs in shape.

Sled dogs are kept in a "dog lot" or dog yard which resembles a miniature dog village. Rows of dog houses line the streets, with each dog in its own house. The dogs sleep, eat, or play with their neighbors, stealing bones or playfully biting a tail or ear.

The dogs stay warm in the winter time with straw on the floor inside each house. With insulated houses and naturally warm fur coats, the dogs' body heat is enough to keep them cozy even in very low temperatures. In the summer, the houses act as shade from the sun.

At least one tour company offers dog mushing if you are here in the winter (snowmachine excursions as well).

Although the best time to see and learn about the sport of dog mushing is during winter, if you are in Fairbanks in the summer, you can still visit kennels, stop in at the Yukon Quest Trading Co. store on Second and Cushman, and learn about the history of the sport through exhibits at the UAF Museum, the Fairbanks Community Museum and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center.

Tour Opportunities:
Many local dog mushers offer tours of their dog lots or even rides in real dog sleds. (In summer, they attach wheels). For referrals, call the visitors information center (456-5774) or the Yukon Quest (451-8985).

One good bet is Fairbanks musher Mary Shields, the first Mary Shields with sled dogwoman to finish the Iditarod and the author of several books about dogs and Alaskan living. Mary is shown here with Jack (short for Jack-O-Lantern).lftpoint.gif (114 bytes) [Click to view larger]

She gives tours "Alaskan Tails of the Trail" of her kennel in Goldstream Valley (about 10 miles north of Fairbanks), for $28 for adults and $22 for children under 12, reservations required. Included in the two-hour tour is a chance to meet her 10 playful huskies and learn about winter camping, sled dog racing, training, feeding and winter survival gear. There is also coffee, tea and a light snack provided.

Shields tours are every evening in the summer, with groups limited to 20, but they are often much smaller. Her home is 15 minutes from the University of Alaska.

For transportation, call G.O. Shuttle, (907) 474-3847. To book a tour of Shields' kennel, call ( 907-455-6469 ALASKA TIME) or email (mshields@mosquitonet.com) for information and tour schedule.

The Sun Dog Express gives dog sled tours, winter only. However, in the summer they offer sample rides for $15 to $25.  Their summer season runs mid-May to mid-September.

Winter tours range from $15 per person (with a discount for a group of 6 or more) for five minutes, to a half-day mushing school for $250. with lots of shorter less-expensive options in between.  Get more information on specific tours at their web site. Their offices are located in the Beaver Sports Outdoor Center. For reservations, call (907) 479-6983.

They are located directly behind Beaver Sports on College Road.  Tours are available by reservation all day Sunday and Monday, Tuesday through Friday mornings and Saturdays closed.  Call 479-6983 or email for more information.  or visit their website (see link above). Located just off the UAF Campus and on the bus route.

Another way to get some hands-on experience with dog mushing is to visit a feed store, such as Cold Spot Feeds off of Farmers Loop, or Alaska Feed Company on College Road. At a feed store, personnel are available to answer your questions, give you tour references and perhaps even introduce you to a real musher or two.

For a more complete experience, call ahead to reserve your space on a Tivi Evening Sled Dog Tour.  For $30 (discounted summer rate, no transportation included), you get a tour of the grounds, gardens, & fish ponds, followed by a full dinner and a ride in the "Arf-Mobile," which Dog Sled Ridecarries up to three people pulled by a team of dogs. In 1999 visitors were treated with a preview showing of a dog mushing video in the making, shown in the "Arena". Call ahead for reservations. Children's summer rates range from $5 to $15.

For information, call (907) 474-8702.

 

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