Clarion reporter Will Morrow takes off from the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association trailhead in Soldotna recently with a canine companion named Doc. This Sunday skijorers will be allowed on the Tsalteshi Trails for a one-day-only skijor event on a portion of the trails behind Skyview High School.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
For everyone who walks or jogs the Tsalteshi Trails with their dogs in summer, but laments at having to leave their canine companion at home for winter, woe no more.
The Tsalteshi Trails Association will co-host a skijor event on a portion of the trails behind Skyview High School on Sunday.
“It’s your chance to bring your dog on the trail without getting hassled by the curmudgeon that does the grooming,” said trail groomer Bill Holt.
Patti Berkhahn, a Tsalteshi Trails board member and one of the organizers of the event, said skijorers should take advantage of this rare opportunity.
“These trails are normally off-limits to dogs, but this one day and one day only skijorers can come and have fun with their dogs,” she said.
This event has been a long time in the making. She said the Tsalteshi board had approved a day for skijoring the past few years, but by the time the day arrived typically late March the conditions were no longer conducive to hosting the event safely.
“This year, though, it looks like the weather is cooperating, it’s looking really good in fact, so we are very excited,” she said.
Berkhahn said it isn’t that there are no other places in the area to skijor that makes this opportunity so exciting, it’s more that none of the other local trail systems are maintained to the same high standards as Tsalteshi.
“The (Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association) trails behind the Soldotna Airport are good, but Tsalteshi has the premiere trails for skate skiers. They’re a little more challenging, are a little wider with wider turns, and they are always nicely groomed. So, for skijorers, it’s a dream come true,” she said.
Berkhahn said Sunday’s event will not be competitive or timed to keep the atmosphere fun and friendly.
“I know there are skijorers out there, and some of these people don’t like to race, so this event is definitely for them,” she said.
Instead of racing, skijorers will tour either a short 5-kilometer course utilizing the Moose and Wolf Trails or a longer 8-kilometer course utilizing the Moose, Wolf, Coyote and Beaver Trails.
“The shorter course will be the same used in the She Can Ski event,” Berkhahn said. “It is very moderate with a few easy hills in there, so anyone not sure how they or their dog will do, that’s the trail for them.”
The longer course will be a little more technical for more advanced skijorers, she said.
While not a race, Berkhahn said there are a few rules, all of which are related to human and dog safety.
“No metal-edged skis are allowed,” she said, and explained this was to prevent any cuts or injuries should dog and skier fall on each other.
Skijorers also are limited to using only one dog per skier during the event, but this dog can be of any breed.
“It’s not just huskies. The family pet or any friendly dog will do,” she said.
Berkhahn said minimal skijor equipment also is required. This includes a harness for the dog and a leash that is connected to the skier.
“We don’t want dogs pulling by their collars. Harnesses can be purchased from either Cad-Re or Top Dog Supply. And we don’t want any hand-held leashes. The leash should attach to the skier’s belt,” she said.
Preregistration begins at 12:15 p.m. with the skijor events starting at 1:30 p.m. The event cost is $5, with larger donations accepted. All proceeds go to the Tsalteshi Trails maintenance fund. Token prizes will also be awarded.
For more information, call Patti Berkhahn at 262-5618 or Jane Handy at 262-8408.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia @peninsulaclarion.com.
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