The 2016 Canadian Challenge will be known as the race that never was.
The Board of Directors of the Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race has announced, with regret, the cancellation of this year’s race because of poor trail conditions.
With only 19 days to go until the start date, trail conditions are very spotty and in places difficult. The snow pack is minimal, non-existent in some places, and thawing conditions along with freezing rain over the past week have resulted in bare patches, icy conditions, water in places, and even complete closure of some parts of the trail. Also, widespread conditions have meant that many mushers across the west have not been able to get as many training hours as they would like, which could cause problems during this distance race.
“In the interests of the safety of dogs, mushers and officials, it was the only prudent thing to do,” says Gill Gracie, president of the Gateway North Sled Dog Race Association, the race’s organizing body. “Safety always comes first for the Challenge, and we are not prepared to unnecessarily put mushers and dogs at risk in difficult conditions.” With little or no snow forecast in the foreseeable future, conditions are not likely to improve. “Even if we had a good blizzard in the next few days, we no longer have time to put in and properly mark the 520-km trail,” says vice president and trail boss Allan Sheremata. “Normally we have at least half the trail marked by this time of year, but conditions have prevented this. Volunteer trail crews can only work on weekends, and there are only three weekends left”!
Race Marshal Dave Smallwood agrees. “Our #1 priority is the safety and well-being of every sled dog that enters the Canadian Challenge. With that in mind the only prudent decision was to cancel this year’s race due to poor and extremely hazardous trail conditions.”
Head vet Dr. Ruth Sims says the tough conditions would mean a high probability of dehydration and injuries to dogs, and this risk cannot be justified.
The 17 mushers who entered this year’s race have been notified, and the board is in the process of contacting financial sponsors.
The board encourages mushers, volunteers and spectators to look ahead to next year’s 20th Anniversary Canadian Challenge, scheduled from Feb. 20-25, 2017. Plans are already under way, and we hope to invite all 130+ mushers who have run the race over the past 18 years to help us celebrate the anniversary.
For more information:
Gill Gracie, President 306-425-7280 firstname.lastname@example.org
Al Sheremata, Vice President, 306-961-8083 email@example.com