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Tag Archives: Sled Dog Race

The weekend of the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race is usually the weekend that my wife and I make the last ski trip of the season. We usually drive up to Ironwood, Michigan and ski at ABR in the afternoon then drive over to Bond Fall to photograph the waterfall and then head over to Calumet, Michigan. If we have time we ski in the afternoon before heading over to the race in the evening. We try to get to the race venue early so we can walk around and take in the pre-race activities. As you can see by the first shot we were early. We noticed that the starting line had been moved down the street about fifty yards.

More photos from the race can be found on my website.

While the adults were bundled up and trying to keep warm the kids were enjoying the snow.

We walked around watching the mushers get their teams and equipment ready for the race. The mushers usually feed their dogs late in the afternoon and then put them back in their stalls until they are ready to hook them to the sleds.

As race time neared we walked over to the area where we wanted to be to watch the teams start. On the way I noticed the display of dogs in the shop window.

We typically stand across from the announcers booth where the teams will typically be when they leave the starting line.

While we were waiting for the start of the race various groups were getting their photos taken in the starting area. The large group was the volunteer veterinarians for the race.

The color guard was getting ready for the national Anthem for each country represented. This year they they played the U.S., Canada and South African Anthems.

Before the race starts the trail crews and the police head out onto the trail to make sure the mushers have a clear trail.

The official photographer taking photos of the first team out.

The first musher to leave the starting line.

Typically when a team arrives at the starting line the musher walks to to the lead dogs and then walks back to the sled giving encouragement to each of the dogs.

Some of the dogs are a little more excited that others.

Each sled carries an anchor. When the team is at the starting line the anchor is use to anchor the sled so the team can’t take off. As the musher gets ready to leave they are handed the anchor. This musher is putting the anchor onto the sled.

The kids had a front row seat. The adults were freezing and the kids were sitting in the snow.

After watching from the starting line we walked back toward the staging area and watched the volunteers bring the teams to the starting line. Having moved the starting line about fifty yards down the course made it easier to get the teams to the starting line and allowed several teams to be in line at the same time.

After the teams were on the course there were some fireworks which we were able to watch from our hotel while enjoying some hot apple cider.

This past weekend we drove up to Bayfield, Wisconsin to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races and to visit friends in the area. It was a beautiful day but way too warm for the dogs at 35 degrees. It was good for the spectators and there was one the largest crowds I’ve seen at the race.

More photos from the race can be found on my website.

We walked around before the race and people watched and watched as the sled dog teams prepared for the race. Lots of young kids around given the warm weather.

We found a location near the starting line wan watched as the teams came in to the starting gate and then headed out onto the course. Sometimes the dogs can be very calm before the race.

Other times they can be very very excited. The noise at the starting line can be deafening.

Volunteers are a big part of any race and as you can see it requires a good deal of effort to control a team of excited dogs. This volunteer is heading to the ground as he tries to control the dogs.

In their excitement the dogs sometimes become tangled and someone has to step in and untangle them.

At the start of the race the sled is anchored to a cable behind the starting line. This team went a little too farm and they were trying to drag the team back so they could place the anchor.

Once the race starts the dogs leave the starting gate at 1 minute intervals and there are always two teams at the starting gate.


After watching the first two races leave the starting gate I decided to walk out the staging area and watch the racers get ready for the race. At this point some of the younger and less experienced racers were preparing for the race.

There is usually a lot of commotion around the starting gate with one team leaving and two more in the starting gate with others ready to enter the starting gate. The volunteers behind the racers are responsible for anchoring the sled. When the racer is ready to go they hand the anchor to the musher.

Lots of kids around having fun. Some of them made slide from the top of the hill others were just playing in the snow.

Not many people around the fire this year since it was so warm out.

The two folks announcing the race. Unfortunately they only seemed to have one speaker and that was pointed right toward the start. Anyone beyond the start gate couldn’t hear them. Next year they should consider putting some speakers beyond the start gate where most of the spectators are so they know what is going on.


A high five from some of the race officials after the last sled dog team was on the course. Congratulations on a very well run race.


Just a reminder that the CopperDog  sled dog race will be taking place the first weekend in March. If you like sled dog racing it is worth visiting Calumet, Michigan.


We drove up north to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and to visit friends in the area.  photos from the race can be found on my website.

We arrived early so we could get some photos of the race participants before the race started. This dog looked a little embarrassed to be wearing a helmet.




Volunteers lead the dog teams to the starting line. The mushers typically walk up and down the line of dogs and give them a little encouragement at the starting line.








At the end of the race they have the youth racers.




As we have for the last few years we drove up to Calumet at the end of February to do some cross country skiing and to watch the CopperDog Sled Dog Race. Last year we were out skiing and missed some of the preparations for the race. This year it was way too warm to ski so we walked over to the race well before it started. As you can see we were among the first to arrive.


It was so warm that the street department was hauling in snow so the sleds could make it from the staging area to the to the starting line. The main intersection was about a foot deep in water and slush. It remained a problem throughout the race as mushers and volunteers had trouble navigating through the deep slush.



We walked around and watched the mushers feed the dogs. Typically they bring them out of the trucks and feed them and then they are put back into their house until they are hooked up to the sled.



When they are brought out for feeding it’s a good time for the kids to walk around and pet the dogs. A number of the dogs were more interested in getting attention from the kids than they were in eating their pre race meal.



There is a lot of gear that has to be organized before the race.


The start of the CopperDog takes place at night. Once the dogs are at the starting line the musher walk through the team and talks to each of the dogs.



It takes a lot of volunteers to help get the teams from the staging area to the starting line and keep the dogs in line before they start.



Some dogs are more excited than others. Some of the teams are very calm and others a wild with excitement.


This spectator was getting a little tired toward the end of the evening.


More photos from the race can be found on my website.

On Friday Afternoon we headed up to Calumet, Michigan to watch the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race and to so some cross country skiing at the Swedetown Ski trails. This year there were over 40 teams involved in the two races. The trip took a little longer than expected. The roads in our area as still covered with an inch of ice and some of the main roads had icy patches on them.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0491

We arrived just in time to get our cold weather gear on and head over to the start of the race. The first stage of the CopperDog is run at night and involves teams racing all three stages as well as teams racing the CopperDog 40 which is the first stage of the race. While my wife, first photo, was intimated by the very cold conditions apparently not everyone else was.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0436

CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0429Before the race we like to walk around and watch the mushers get their teams ready for the race. This involves getting the dogs out and feeding them. Once they are fed they are put back into their houses until race time. I was watching one racer chop up frozen meat to heat up. It makes something like s soup for the dogs. All of the dogs were attached to a single chain along the side of the truck when one end of the chain came loose and all of the dogs ran down to the next truck to visit. It took the mushers a while to get them untangled.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0433

The CopperDog is run on 150 snowmobile trails in the Keweenaw. Just before the race starts a team of snowmobilers head out onto the trail to make sure the trails are clear and signs are posted to watch out for sled dog teams. It is also necessary to make sure the sled dog teams safely cross the roads.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0451

The start of the race takes place on the main street of Calumet. The day before the race they bring in snow and cover the street with snow. This year it wasn’t a problem getting snow since they have had almost 300 inches.

We took up a position right across from the announcers booth where the race starts. When the teams arrive at the starting line the dogs are out on the course and the sled is held at the starting gate. The sled is then hooked at the starting gate so the dogs can’t take off. Since the dogs are raring to go the sled can spend some time in the air as the dogs try to head out onto the course. In addition to being cold it was also snowing. It takes a lot of volunteers to make a sled dog race happen and sometimes the dogs are a handful in their exuberance to get out onto the course.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0488


We watched about half of the race from the starting line but then started to get cold feet standing for over an hour so we decided to get a hot drink and walk around watching some of the preparation activities. Some of the dogs were still waiting to get hooked up while others were already on the course.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0502

This is a volunteer trying to hold an exuberant dog back before they headed to the start of the race. In the background you can see a dog with a red light on its harness. Most of the lead dogs have lights so the musher can keep track of where the dogs are.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-14-3-_0542

After the start of the first stage of the race we headed back to the motel for a hot meal. More Photos from the Race can be found on my website.

This year for the first time in a long time you might be able to experience a number of outstanding events on the same day or at least the same weekend in the Bayfield area.

The weekend of February 1 and 2, 2014 the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race will take place. In my opinion this is one of the best sled dog races for spectators because there are a large number of sled dog teams that participate.

Off and Racing

Off and Racing

In addition, it is possible to get up close to the dogs and it is easy to watch them come out of the starting gate. There are no bad seats at the event.



Since the race is an out and back race you have time to watch them take off in the morning, enjoy lunch in Bayfield, and return to the race site and watch them come back early in the afternoon.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-11-2-_2518

While in Bayfield you can drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road. The ice road to Madeline Island opened this past week so the ice should be good and solid by the time of the sled dog race. When we were at the race last year the wind sled was operating still operating.Madeline-Island-Windsled-13-2_0043

In addition, the Apostle Islands Ice Caves are open so you have a chance to watch some of the sled dog race, drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road and walk out to the Apostle Island Ice Caves all on the same day.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471

A better option would be to stay in the area and enjoy the events over the course of the weekend.

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.


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.




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.



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.



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.



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.




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.




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

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_2679As I noted in an earlier post one of the goals this winter is to attend some sled dog races. One of the first races of the season took place last weekend on the Minnesota North Shore. It was a staged race with the first stage starting at Grand Portage and ending at Hungry Jack Lodge. Day two was from Windigo Lodge to Devils Track Landing and the final stage from Grand Marais to Grand Portage. The final leg had to be rerouted because there is almost no snow in Grand Marais. The final leg started at Devils Track Landing.

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0107 We weren’t sure we were going to take this race in but given the lack of snow for cross country skiing we decided to head up to Grand Marais to watch the first ever Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race. The plan was to drive to Grand Marais on Monday and watch the finish of the second stage of the race at Devils Track Landing. However, when we reached Grand Marais there were strong southeast winds creating huge waves along the coast. We decided to watch the waves instead. More about this in a future blog.

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0102On Tuesday morning we decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and go down to Sven and Ole’s where the local Lions Club was having a pancake breakfast. We always try to support local events when we have the opportunity. Unfortunately it didn’t look like the breakfast was well attended but we had a great time talking to some friendly folks from Grand Marais. The pancakes were good particularly the blueberry pancakes.

 Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0014After Breakfast we headed out to Devils Track Landing to watch the start of the final stage of the race. When we arrived everyone was just starting to get organized for the day. I was surprised that things were so quiet. Usually at the start of the race the dogs are going nuts. We walked around taking photos of the various teams that would be participating in the race. Three of the teams were from Alaska. As soon as the first dog was put into its harness bedlam broke out. The dogs knew that the race was going to start and they were really excited to get started.

 Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0129Just before the start of the race one of the race officials came by and asked if we were spectators (as opposed to mushers and helpers) and if we were would we be willing to go out onto the lake and forma a line so the dogs would know which way to go. The start of the race was the top of a boat landing heading down to Devils Track Lake and then out onto the lake. Normally they have hay bales set along the start to get the dogs going in the right direction but maybe because of the change in the starting location they didn’t have them on hand. At any rate my wife and I headed out to the lake to help form a line.

 Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0173The line worked fairly well for the first part of the race but then people started gathering in groups to talk and as one racer came down the boat ramp there was too big a gap in the line and the dogs dashed through the gap and headed the wrong direction. The musher quickly got them under control and headed off in the right direction.

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0134 We watched most of the race from the lake. It was a cold morning, about 15 degrees when we reached the race area. There were lots of ice crystals in the air out on the lake.

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0219 Toward the end of the race we walked back up to the starting gate to get some photos of teams at the starting gate and the teams being brought to the starting gate. It was interesting watching them bring teams to the gate. It takes quite a few people to get a dog sled team to a starting gate. About 5-9 people were helping with each team. Some teams required more help than others.

Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0196 This was the first time I had seen the use of four wheelers and snowmobiles to help get the dogs to the starting gate. They attached a tow rope from the sled to the snowmobile. This prevented the dogs from just taking off and probably reduced the number of people required to get a team to the starting gate.

 Gichigami-Express-Dog-Sled-Race-2013-1-_0179At the starting gate they had a heavy chain across the snow. It was held in place by pickup trucks that were parked on each end on the chain. The chain was used to anchor the sled once it was at the gate. Each sled carries an anchor that can be used to prevent the dogs from taking off before the start time. Someone stands on the anchor until just before the team starts.

 You can find more photos from the race on my website. There are also some great action photos from the race course on the Gichigami Express website.