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Idaho Sled Dog Challenge cancels 100 and 300-mile races 

Four dogs with booties on attached to a lead rope, getting ready to participate in a sled dog race.
Melissa Shelby
Idaho Sled Dog Challenge
MCCALL, Idaho (Jan. 4, 2022) — SNOW ROVERS — The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is returning to the West Central Mountains of Idaho Jan. 30-Feb. 3 during the 2022 McCall Winter Carnival. Part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, the race features world-class mushers and is an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. This year most events will be staged in Cascade at the Lake Cascade boat ramp on Lake Cascade Parkway between Lakeshore Bar & Grill and the Van Wyck Campground. Race organizers are seeking volunteers to staff checkpoints and help handle dogs, so visit idahosleddogchallenge.com if you’re interested. (Photo by Melissa Shelby)

The 100-mile and 300-mile races of the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge have been canceled amid an unseasonably warm winter.

This weekend across southwest Idaho, temperatures are forecast to surpass 40 degrees.

"It's miserable for the mushers and for the volunteers. The dogs are probably fine with it, they just like to run, but it´s just not conducive to a good race," said Dave Looney, the co-founder and vice-president of the event, which would have been hosted in the West Central Mountains of Idaho from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.

According to Looney, a mushy course can lead to injuries as dogs post-hole their way through the race or punch through while crossing cattle guards.

sou¨When the groomers go by, they fill those with snow and pack it all down and the dogs run across it no problem,¨ Looney said. ¨But if we don't have enough snow to fill those in, there's no place for the dogs to run, because when the dog comes up to a cattle guard, the lede dog jumps and the dogs behind it just falls into the cattle guard, and they can break a leg and it's just horrible horrible, train wreck.¨

While putting plywood over the guards can be a workaround, the conditions are largely too poor overall.

The race is part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown and serves as an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. It would have been in its sixth year, although it was also canceled for COVID-19 in 2020.

Other dog sled races across the country, including Beargrease in Minnesota, Eagle Cap Extreme in Oregon, and Race to the Sky in Montana, have also been canceled due to a lack of snow. 

For now, there is no plan to reschedule the main races in the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge.

But there is one silver lining: A 25-mile stage race will still take place on Wednesday and Thursday morning at Warm Lake in Cascade. 

Fans can watch that race in person or online at idahosleddogchallenge.com, and they can still buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a trip to the Iditarod.

I'm a journalist currently covering the American West. My stories have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Times and other publications. Previously, I worked as an editor for The Associated Press in Mexico City.

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