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Weather sinks Fur Rendezvous sled dog races

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- For the second time in four years the Fur Rendezvous will be without its centerpiece event -- the Open World Championship Sled Dog Race.

Board members of the Alaska Sled Dog Racing Association voted unanimously Thursday night to cancel the three-day race, which had been scheduled to begin Feb. 21.

Trail conditions pose too much of a risk for sprint-dog teams, which can reach speeds of 25 mph and higher, the board decided. Little snow, a lot of rain and a forecast that promises neither snow nor cooler temperatures convinced the board that conditions are unlikely to improve any time soon.

Corners on the trail have no edges, which means sleds traveling at high speeds may careen into trees along the trail. Some parts of the trail don't have any snow and other parts have snow too soft to grip an ice hook.

''I know there's gonna be complaints,'' race marshal Jerry Tokar said, ''but there's not much you can do.''

Board member Beverly Stevens said she ran a team of seven dogs at Tozier Track on Tuesday and wasn't encouraged by what she saw.

''I really had to slow down the team because it'd get soft suddenly, and that's not safe for dogs.''

And that was before two days of rain.

Board members felt obligated to make a decision on the race now so mushers and volunteers could make other plans. The group relies on more than 100 volunteers on race days, and some of them take vacation time at work to help, said board member Susan Wagnon.

The board voted to push back the start of the Fur Rondy Women's World Championship, scheduled to begin next weekend, to Feb. 21-23. Fewer mushers come from Outside for the women's race, board members said, and the races are shorter. The board will meet again next Thursday to decide whether the trails can handle the women's race.



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