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Tag Archives: CopperDog 150 Dog Sled Race

This past weekend we were in Calumet, Michigan to watch the Copperdog150 Sled Dog Race. We spent most of Friday cross country skiing while we waited for the 7 p.m. start of the race. Bruce Magnusson was the winner of the of the race. He is shown here on his way into Copper Harbor.

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We arrived in downtown Calumet a couple of hours before the start of the race. Most of the mushers were feeding their dogs and laying out their gear prior to hooking up the dogs. Once the dogs are fed they are put back into their motel rooms until just before the start of the race.

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As the race neared we took up a position near the starting line across from the official starters station. It takes quite a few volunteers to get a dog team to the starting line. The dogs are excited and can easily drag the volunteers down the course. Once the command to go is given the dogs leap into action. In a number of cases some of the dogs were caught off guard and were dragged off of their feet by the other dogs.

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The next morning we drove over to Eagle Harbor for the start of the second stage of the race. Even though some of the dogs had been racing until past midnight they were ready to go again the next morning. We watched all of the teams head out for Copper Harbor. The plan was to ski around Eagle Harbor but the ski trail was in tough shape so we drove to Copper Harbor to watch the finish of the second stage of the race.

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There were free drinks and treats in the community center in Copper Harbor so we stopped by for some hot coco and treats. We wandered around town waiting for the dog teams to arrive. They seemed to be late in arriving so we ended up walking up the trail quite a ways. When they did arrive there was some stiff competition as they came down the hill into town. There were a few problems getting into town. The trail was being shared with snowmobiles and there were some sharp turns. The dogs were having problems figuring out where to go. We watched most of the teams arrive before heading back to Calumet.

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The final day of the race was a beautiful sunny day with minus degree temperatures. We decided to spend the morning skiing at Swedetown before returning to town to watch the finish of the race.

There was some stiff competition at the finish line. In one case there were three racers running close together. In another case two racers jumped off of their sleds and ran with their dogs to the finish line. As I mentioned it was a beautiful day. One racer crossed the finish line without a shirt on. As I recall he started out with ten dogs but only has six at the finish of the race so he probably had to work a little harder than some of the other racers.

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Several dogs must have been hurt on the race because they were riding in the sled when the racers finished. Once the racers finish the race they sometimes put their young children in the sled for the ride back to the truck. It was a weekend of cross country skiing and sled dog racing.

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More photos from the CopperDog 150 can be found on my website.

Last weekend we made our last trip to the U.P. for this winter. Our primary goal was to get some late winter skiing in but we also planned the trip to coincide with the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race. Last winter we watched the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and we had so much fun that we decided to check out the CopperDog 150.

The CopperDog 150 is a three day event with multiple stages. The first stage started at 7:00 pm on Friday night in Calumet and ended in Eagle Harbor. The second stage started at 9:00 am in Eagle Harbor and ended in Copper Harbor. The last stage took the mushers from Copper Harbor back to Calumet.

There was a large crowed on hand at Calumet for the start of the race. We arrived early and still had a  problem finding a place to park. We ended up watching the start of the race a few blocks from the starting line. First to come down the race course was a group of snow bike racers. They were followed by some snowmobiles carrying race officials. We watched about five mushers start from this vantage point .

We then decided to walk down to the race staging area where the real excitement was taking place. If you have never been to a sled dog race it is bedlam at the start of the race. Once the mushers start to get the dogs out of their trucks most of the dogs become frantic with excitement. They are barking, and jumping and straining at the harness. When they start moving toward the starting line it usually takes  6-8 people to manage the move and even then it is a struggle with some teams. The dogs are so strong that they need to be held back. We watched one team dragging 4 people along as they tried to hold the sled back. Once at the starting gate the musher places two anchors out to hold the sled and someone else usually stands on the sled break all to hold the team back. Others are out holding the dogs. Not every dog team requires as much effort. I’ve seen a few that are led to the starting line and stand waiting for the start but those are the exception.

On Saturday morning we drove up to Eagle Harbor to watch the start of the second leg of the race. There were far fewer people around so it was easier to get a better view of what was taking place. The weather was brutal with heavy snow and strong winds off of the lake. I decided to leave my good camera in the car and rely on my pocket camera.

It is not uncommon for the mushers to have some problems at the start of the race. Some of the dogs are so frantic that they get tangled up in the lines. In a couple of instances the team were about 50 yards down the course and the mushers were frantically trying apply the brakes so they could stop the sled and get the dogs straightened out. Fortunately there were race officials stationed down the course to help hold the sled while the musher got things straightened out. We stayed until all of the teams had left the starting gate.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Calumet to watch the finish of the race. It was a beautiful sunny day. I photographed a number of teams as they entered town. The dogs were moving right along in spite of having raced for three days.

I then started walking down the course to photograph some of the race fans. This was one of my favorite shots with the kids all lined up at the hot chocolate bar.

Dog sled racing requires a huge number of support people so if you like dogs and want to volunteer at a race I’m sure you would be more than welcome. I think they said there were over 450 people helping to put the race on and this race only had about 30 teams. Most of the surrounding communities had people helping out at the race.

We spent some time watching the teams come in. As you can imagine the dogs were famished when they arrived at the finish line. It was an entirely different scene than at the start of the race. You didn’t hear a single dog bark at the finish line. I would have thought they would be tired by the third leg but a race official said they just as excited on the third start as the first start.

Most of the dogs in the race were Alaskan Huskies which are bread for racing. I initially thought this dog was a Siberian Husky puppy but the owner said it was a miniature Siberian Husky. He was getting a lot of attention from race fans.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are looking forward to watching more dog sled racing.  More photos from the CopperDog 150 can be found on my website.