The Iditarod Trail has led musher Paul Gebhardt from Anchorage to Nome five times. Now it is taking him to Missoula, Mont.
The Kasilof resident, who finished second in this year's annual sled dog race, is spending the weekend at a dog mushing symposium. He will join Montana native Doug Swingley, the reigning Iditarod champion and back-to-back winner, as featured speakers at the Montana Sled Dog Inc. Race to the Sky's 10th annual training camp and trade show.
The theme of this year's gathering is "Making It Work," and Gebhardt will speak on raising puppies, from harness breaking to competitive racing.
"They just called me up and asked me to come down," Gebhardt said.
"I thought it was pretty cool. I feel honored to go down there and talk."
Race to the Sky secretary Pam Otto said Gebhardt was chosen not only because of his standing as a top musher, but also because he has been successful as a small kennel operator who is not a full-time musher.
"We always try and do something a little different each year," said Otto, who expects about 100 mushers from all over the country to attend the symposium.
"This year, we thought he'd add a different dimension. He has a small kennel and it's a family sport with him. We like that. There are a lot of mushers coming who are small and want to find out more."
Aliy Zirkle, who in February became the first woman to win the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race, also will share the stage with Gebhardt and Swingley and will talk about her Quest experience as well as "Making the Most with a Smaller Kennel."
Swingley, the three-time Iditarod champion, will discuss breeding decisions and join Gebhardt in a lighter discussion about their Iditarod experiences.
"Doug's way and my way are so far apart," Gebhardt said, noting the Montanan's large kennel and full-time, year-round mushing schedule.
"I get to do down and check out Doug's kennel and see how he does things down there."
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