Sled dog group looks to host races at 2006 Arctic Winter Games

Posted: Monday, December 01, 2003

With the new year right around the corner, some people are thinking ahead.

Then there's the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association. They're thinking way ahead -- all the way to 2006.

The group hopes to host the dog mushing races for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games on its 37-mile trail system through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near the Soldotna Municipal Airport.

"We're in the process of submitting a formal proposal to the Arctic Winter Games committee," said Mitch Michaud, the president of the association.

Depending on the age category, dog races at the games are from 4.5 to 8 miles in length, with each competitor using a team of four to seven dogs to pull their sled.

"The PSDRA has been involved in mushing for more than 35 years," Michaud said. "We hope to use and apply what we know to the games and show off the wonderful trails that we've got."

Although still in the preliminary planning stages, the Kenai Golf Course has been proposed as the site for the dog races, but PSDRA believes its trails are better.

"They're set up for dog mushing," Michaud said. "The trails are longer so you don't have to watch teams go around-and-around. They're wide and have longer straightaways for passing. There are no double back trails as well, so there's no chance of head-on run-ins."

Michaud said the refuge trails also are ideal for racing.

"It's a great site. We have a dedicated staging area with metal posts to tie teams and arrange them. We also have a timing shack, and we start grooming and maintaining right after Christmas, so it will have three months of packing from running before the race."

Also, since the Arctic Games will take place somewhat late in the season by dog mushing standards, weather should be a concern, and again the refuge trails are more conducive to holding up as temperatures rise, Michaud said.

"I've mushed the (PSDRA) trails as late as April before," Michaud said. "The trails are heavily wooded, so there isn't as much direct sunlight on them like at the golf course. Also, they're at a higher elevation, so it stays a little cooler."

As part of the process to host the games, the association invited Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey to its November meeting to discuss it.

Carey said once the association submits its proposal to the executive committee for the host society, which is made up of Carey, Jack Brown, Dale Bagley and Becky Foster, the possible change of locations can be added to the discussion items that will be sent to the international committee.

"It should be an easy addendum," Carey said. "I can't imagine that we wouldn't say yes, because I don't know of anyone else more qualified. We're thrilled they want to do it."

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