Making this year’s Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race more appealing for spectators is part and parcel of preparations currently underway.
Between their La Ronge and Prince Albert offices, organizers are anticipating the race kickoff in downtown Prince Albert.
“We’ve got lots of snow!” president Gill Gracie exclaimed. “Last year we hardly had any, it was horrible.”
The lack of snow forced organizers north of the North Saskatchewan River, out of concern for unstable river ice.
Barring an unforeseen shift in weather, this year’s event should kickoff on Feb. 19, across the street from City Hall, stretching 520 kilometres over four days and nights through and around La Ronge.
Organizers are currently organizing more spectator-friendly components to this year’s race, including a greater sendoff in Prince Albert than in the past.
“We’re talking to the local cafes to see if they’ll have hot chocolate available, and things like that,” Gracie said.
Along their trek -- those in the 12-dog race travelling 520 kilometres and those with eight dogs travelling 120 -- participants will be monitored online by GPS.
“That’ll make it a lot more interesting for people who are following the race -- inside in the warm in front of a computer instead of out in the cold,” Gracie said.
We’ve got lots of snow! - Gill Gracie
This will also enable those interested in seeing the dogs race along their trek in-person.
“It makes it easier to predict when teams are going to get to the checkpoint if they want to go out and watch instead of sitting there for hours, waiting,” she said.
Those viewing the races are in for a treat, she said, with many those participating ranking in as world-class dog sled racers.
“It is an international race,” Gracie said. “It has … attracted people from the northern states and even Europe.
“We’ll undoubtedly have a team or two or three running as a qualifier, with plans to run the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest later on.”
A number of dog-related events are being planned for La Ronge during the afternoon of Feb. 22, including skijor demonstrations.
Organizers are currently fundraising to make the event a reality, with $10,000 already committed from Cameco, a returning sponsor. The Gateway North Sled Dog Race Association is currently working at rounding up the remaining $40,000 in financing required.
The Daily Herald will provide a more in-depth preview of things to come as the Feb. 19 start date nears.