Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Exhibition Gala

Skaters are in Vegas already for the 2020 Skate America, competition begins Friday. The USFSA started sharing pictures and video yesterday. I'm in such a funk, but I'm also just thankful that a competition is happening. Skate Canada and the Internationaux de France have both been officially canceled. We won't be getting a Four Continents Championship next year. Right now Skate America seems to be the only thing we've got... so I'll take it.

The Gala last year was a great finale to a wonderful whirlwind weekend (yay alliteration). I think it was the bestie's favorite part just for the entertainment value. There were emotional moments as well as some great laughs. The extras were cheesy (they had a magician and a contortionist and the skating dog came back) but over all it was one of the better gala's I've attended. 

Keegan Messing had everyone on their feet with a moving tribute to his brother who passed in a motorcycle accident just weeks before. Some skaters used previous years competitive programs as their exhibitions. Some had Vegas themed programs. Others debuted their show program for the season. A great collection of skates. Something for everyone.

As I did with my practice photos blog post, this is just going to be a photo dump with no commentary or captions. You can see all of the Skate America 2019 photos in my gallery. Thanks for reading along. I'm hoping to live tweet a bit of the competition this weekend so if you want to chat all things figure skating find me on twitter!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Ladies Free Program

The final installment of today's blog posts (annoyed yet? probably). It's a good thing, too, because I'm running out of things to write.

The ladies were fireworks and sparkles and fun. I would have preferred the men or the dance to close out the competition, but it was still a decent competition to end with. Quads and costume "changes" were what won the day, but it was nice to see the US hold their own and the "elder" Russian make a stand. 

Overall the outcome wasn't all that surprising, though it was weird to see USA and not Japan on the podium. I want to be as flexible as these ladies, that's for sure. Some of the positions they are able to contort themselves into still make me hurt just thinking about it.

As with the other blog posts (Pairs Free, Mens Free, Free Dance) I'll keep to the two photos per skater and you can view all of my photos from Skate America 2019 in my gallery. There's just one more day of photos and I'll probably just do like I did with the practice post and do a huge photo dump. You've been warned. Then we'll get back to mushing.

Yi Christy LEUNG - Hong Kong

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Free Dance

Confession: I am a Short Dance fan... I'd rather we still have the three components of Compulsaries, Original Dance, and Free Dance... but I love the Short Dance (when it isn't a latin dance). Seeing the patterns get integrated into the program is just fun. I'm still waiting for the Yankee Polka! Haha! 

This event was pretty "normal", I have to say I wasn't impressed with the top two teams, but overall the judging wasn't terrible. The team from Spain was my favorite, and I also really liked what I saw from the French and Chinese. Overall just a well skated competition. 

As for the earlier blog posts (Pairs Free Program, Mens Free Program), I'm going to stick with two photos per team (try to) and you can view all of my photos from Skate America 2019 in my gallery

Hong CHEN / Zhuoming SUN - China

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Mens Free Program

Benny the skating dog stole the show.
I'll be honest, this competition didn't end the way I wanted. I had really hoped Keegan could make it onto the podium. He deserves to. He is an incredibly talented skater and often comes close. Still, that afternoon event was a lot of fun to watch (I mean, Nathan Chen tried to do hip hop. That in and of itself was worth the price of admission.) We sat next to a lady (who was not our fan in any way, especially once she found my best friend was NOT a fan of the sport so how dare she even exist) who was a huge Jason Brown fan so it was nice to see her guy skate well. I mean, it's hard not to want Jason to do well, he's just one of those guys you want to cheer for.

Not surprisingly Nathan Chen was leaps above the rest of the competition and he wasn't even completely on his game (he stood up though). His tech is incredible and I like that he keeps trying things to keep the sport interesting. It was a well skated event for being the first big competition of the season, and once again we had a blast cheering them all on. I did not get photos of the medal ceremony for the men or the pairs because it went longer than expected and so I had to hoof it to make our reservation for dinner. 

As with my blog post earlier (Pairs Free Program) I'll keep it to two photos per skater and you can view all of the photos from Skate America in my gallery.

Koshiro SHIMADA - Japan

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Pairs Free Program

A year ago today. We were all sitting close together sharing snacks and laughs. A year ago today we were planning to visit some resorts and the pop up FRIENDS anniversary event. A year ago today we visited the M&M store and the World of Hershey's. A year ago today the Free Programs for the competitors happened and we were there to watch. A year ago today Covid wasn't a concern. A year ago today was a lot more fun than it is today as I deal with a mountain of Monday issues.

Yes, another series of posts brought on by a whine is happening. I'd apologize for my privilege of having been able to travel at all in the good times much less the less than good, but I want to validate my feelings on my blog, so I will. I don't expect many -if any- to even read these, maybe if I did my attitude would be different. 

The Pairs competition held some surprises with Team USA (who'd've thought Cain and Le Duc would have SO many issues that night, and that Jessica and Brian would have the start of a stellar season that would be cut short just a few months later when the world came to a screeching halt) and even a year later I'm surprised by the overall outcome of the event. It was a great way to start off the day of competition.

Just like with the last couple of days worth of posts on this subject, I will try to keep to 2 pics of each team. You can view all of my photos from Skate America 2019 in my gallery.

Camille RUEST / Andrew WOLFE - Canada

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Ladies Short Program

Cheat sheet for the camera man to identify the skater.
In the US it's all about the Ladies even though lately our ladies haven't really been the most competitive of our team. Doesn't mean the powers that be don't continue to make them the headlining event of a competition (though US Nationals now closes out with Ice Dance). Skate America was buzzing with talk of the Russian Jumping Queens that were sure to show off on the ice. We watched the girls in both practice and warm up attack quad jump after quad jump. A lot of falls. A lot of grumpy looks from Coach Eteri. A lot of hype. 

Okay, not too much hype, they delivered. But so did Team USA as best they could without the quads and the triple axel. Japan also delivered and the Russian ladies quickly learned that it's not just about the jumps, because if you don't hit your tech you need to at least have some presentation marks to help hold you up. Not that they wiped the ice - far from it - but there was a glaring difference between the Japanese and US ladies vs Team Russia (though they did have one "mature" lady who does her best to have some semblance of artistry in her programs). 

I was excited to see some of the ladies I only ever see on TV, and they all made for some great photos. Just as I have with the other blog posts in today's series (Pairs Short, Mens Short, Short Dance) I'll keep to two photos per lady and you can view the rest in my Skate America photo gallery

Yi Christy LEUNG - Hong Kong

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Short Dance

Who doesn't love a Zamboni?
Okay, while Men's will always be my "official" favorite discipline for figure skating... in all honesty Ice Dance probably is. I mean, it's Ice Dance. It's technical and entertaining all in one. That there aren't any jumps does not matter, there's as much if not more danger in this sport. The personalities are bold. The costumes are stellar. THE DRAMA OF IT ALL. How can you not love Ice Dance? 

Right now, North American teams are killing it on the World Stage - though Russia is starting to push its way into the mix again - and I feel sometimes the other countries are overlooked. Getting to see some of the other teams live was a real treat and I came away with some new favorites (I really adored Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz's Short Dance and their Free... and their gala... okay I just love them). 

As with the other two blog posts in today's series (Pairs Short, Mens Short), I'll try my darndest to keep to two photos per team (so hard!) and you can view all of my photos from Skate America in the gallery

Caroline GREEN / Michael PARSONS - USA

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Men's Short Program

Keegan Messing - Canada (by way of Alaska)
Men's Figure Skating has always been my favorite figure skating discipline to watch, mainly because the skater that first got me interested in the sport was 1984 Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton. I was 4 and totally in love with that dude. Still am, if I'm being honest. My first sports hero that I got to pick all on my own.

The 2019 Skate America competition had some of my favorite skaters of the current era. It was a great event, competitive, and many skaters debuted at least one of their programs (if they hadn't done so during the summer string of club competitions). I was most excited to see Canada's Keegan Messing. Keegan is from Alaska, but skates for our neighbors. Last time I'd seen him compete he was still part of Team USA and he was skating as a junior (so do the math, it was 2008 US Nationals lol). Keegan's brother had passed away in an accident not too long before Vegas and it was an emotional week for him, but he did far better than most expected. I was total fangirl and I think I got all of our crew super excited for the guy! 

As with my earlier blog post for the Pairs Short Program, I'm going to try and limit myself to two photos per skater, but we'll see. You can see all of my photos from Skate America in my gallery.

Koshiro SHIMADA - Japan

Remember When: Skate America 2019 Pairs Short

The Ice Sweeps were very Vegas in costume.
Continuing with this weekend of whining - today's blog post will be a series of four so that I don't completely go over kill in one giant blog post. Kudos to anyone who is reading, at this point I'm not doing much with content other than just photo dumping and I do apologize. I should have posted these photos a year ago and I never got around to it (to be fair I didn't finish editing these photos until mid 2020). 

The great thing about Skate America is it's a quick weekend event. Two days of competition bookended with an official practice and an exhibition gala. I had never been to an international event - the only other skating competitions I've been to are US Nationals in 2005, 06, 08, and 18 - so it was a new and very enjoyable experience. The arena was smaller than what I'm used to for events, but the staff were incredibly friendly. The seats were great for spectating. We met some awesome fans (and one not so awesome one, but it ended up being highly entertaining anyway). Made some new friends.

And the skating was amazing. I don't shoot photos for any reason other than for my own enjoyment. I like to challenge myself into getting the right shot. The lighting in the arena worked really well for cameras and of course once the TV lights come on it's perfect.

The first discipline was pairs. It was a small field and not many of the big names were there other than those from the US (which if you're a figure skating fan you know it's the weak link for Team USA). Didn't matter to me as it was still a great event and I found some new pairs to follow. I'll try to keep the photos to 1-2 per pair, but I make no promises. It's like choosing between your children... ya just shouldn't! (As always, click the "read more" to see all the photos under the cut, and check out my gallery for all of my photos from Skate America 2019.)


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Remember When: Skate America 2019 practice

A year ago today I was in Las Vegas for the first time to attend my first International Figure Skating competition (as a spectator). I, of course, brought along my camera. We had great seats (front row behind and to the right of the judges table!) and I managed to get a ridiculous amount of photos of all of the skaters. 

A year ago today my best friend Erin sat alongside me and watched a sport she only occasionally puts on the TV (and only really when we can chat together while watching) because we rarely see each other due to her finding a great guy to marry and that solidified her staying in Montana while I stay here in Alaska. It was a girls trip where we were also hanging out with my skating fan friends whom I've known for at least 15 years (in person, longer online and I'm not saying how long bc we're already too old). 

A year ago today there were barely even rumblings of an upcoming pandemic. A year ago today we were barely talking about the upcoming election. A year ago today we weren't preoccupied with masks and civil war and red and blue and purple and green. Sure those problems existed and some of us even did care an awful lot... but life was relatively - what we thought as - normal. 

Today, I'm not packing for Vegas and Skate America - which was supposed to take place in the same arena as last year because it was such a great venue those of us who attended made sure to let the USFS know how much we wanted to return. Today, I'm counting down to watching Skate America 2020 stream online. Today skaters are probably doing their final covid test in prep for the event, and hoping the event takes place. There won't be an audience. We don't know what to expect in this age of Covid.

Yes, I'm being whiny. I really wanted to be there. I really wanted to see my friends and watch amazing skaters. So instead I'm just going to relive that weekend in October last year. Today - some of my favorite photos from the official practice... a year ago today. Yeah, another photo dump. If you want to see all of my Skate America 2019 photos you can visit my gallery.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Mid-Distance sled dog races open for registration

Several mid-distance races opened registration last weekend for their 2021 races. With all of the uncertainty in 2020, fans wondered if races would see a slow start to the season - but the worry was all for naught. Every race has seen a very healthy return of applications, some are even full. Even with the uncertainty of travel, teams from Canada and the Lower-48 plan to come up to Alaska for the racing season. Alaska wasn't the only state to see races come alive for registrations.

The John Beargrease opened registration for it's different classes (with the 120 being full), with many familiar teams returning for another go at the Lower 48's premiere race. The Pedigree Stage-Stop race also opened registration with several familiar names on the roster. 

The Willow 300, which earlier this fall announced they were unsure they would be able to put on a race due to lack of volunteers, filled out within minutes. The race capped its number at 45. Willow 300 is one of the few races that does not do an interval start. Teams line up for a mass start on Willow Lake, though some choose to hold back and give their teams room to run. It makes for an exciting bit of race action for anyone watching.

The Kuskokwim 300 - which starts and ends in the Western-Alaska town of Bethel - also opened registration and is boasting the largest opening day of registration roster to date with many of the sport's top names. With Covid being a very real possibility for concern leading into 2021, Bethel has already been very pro-active in how they plan to make sure this race is safe for everyone. It's still early in the season, but this race is shaping up to be the one to watch. The Kusko always delivers an exciting race. 

Copper Basin 300 opened up registration, with 24 teams signing up on opening day. The CB300 is known as the coldest mid-distance race and offers many challenges for veteran and rookie teams alike. The 2020 race was nearly called off mid race due to cold, with many teams choosing to scratch at the first two checkpoints because of weather reports. This year there's a good balance of veterans and rookies hoping to take on the course.

The Yukon Quest has had to restructure for the 2021 race due to border and financial concerns. With Covid-19 a persistent issue, the race decided it would not be feasible to try to hold the traditional thousand mile race, and the lack of funds made running two 300 mile races difficult. However the Alaska side of the Quest has decided to hold the Yukon Quest 300 and have renamed it the Summit Quest, recognizing that the Alaska 300 trail goes over several of the famous summits of the Quest trail. 20 teams signed up on the first day. Several popular Quest teams are in the mix, including former Champion Hugh Neff. 

New race "Sweeps" also opened up registration this past week and announced two sign ups. First to register is DeeDee Jonrowe who retired from competitive dog mushing several years ago (do mushers ever really retire?) as well as Iditarod Champion Jeff King. Sweeps has a very expensive entry fee of $4000 to help build a giant purse payout. However, this is a steep price and it is unclear if there will be enough teams to make the race viable (the race states it needs 25 teams to sign up and race at minimum). 

Of course, all (except the Beargrease 120 and Willow 300) are still open for registration - as is registration for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Most races will keep registration open through December, the season is shaping up to be an exciting one. 

Which races are you excited to follow? Who are you rooting for? Who are you hoping to see sign up for some races? Comment below!

Mushing fans come together to help Yukon Dogs

Don't say the Mushing Fandom isn't devoted to their sport. Several weeks ago news broke that due to a record low Chum salmon run, dog teams in the Yukon River villages were looking at a bleak winter. Unlike dogs in other parts of the country or even the state, there isn't a local pet food store these mushers can run to. The dogs of the Yukon feed off of fish and other subsistence foods - just as they always have. Shipping in extra dog food is a financial hardship in a good year, in one where "real food" can't be supplemented into the dogs' diets has many dog owners looking at not so great alternatives. Many dogs are facing being sent outside to other kennels or homes, or possibly even being humanely put down to save them from starvation.

A plea for help went out quickly, started in large part on social media by Steph Quinn-Davidson the Director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Steph's original plea was directed more towards dog food companies seeing if any would be willing to donate some kibble to the doggos in need. Fans quickly helped spread the word and tagged their favorite brands. Only one, Purina, stepped up - donating 35,000 pounds of dog food as well as the shipping costs to get the dry dog food to Fairbanks. And then things were quiet again.

This past week, Steph once again took to social media for help. With the announcement of Purina's sponsorship, now all she needed was to fund the shipping of the relief food to the different villages that were in need. Alaska's News Source gave a signal boost to the plight of the Yukon Sled Dogs running a story on their website and Steph created a GoFundMe fundraiser. Word spread. By Thursday people were posting what they could to the fundraiser and sharing through many platforms. By Friday - the fundraiser had met the original goal and changed their goal to twice the original number. With shipping costs taken care of, all other funding will go to purchase more dog food. More mushers along the river are asking for help, and the cost will no doubt increase.

At present, $22,160 has been raised in just over 24 hours. A huge part of that is due to the UglyDogs (a fan group that supports Blair Braverman and Quince Mountain - dog mushers in Wisconsin who've brought the sport to a whole new generation of fans) who love their spreadsheets and LOVE to help in however way they can. The fans not only boosted the fundraiser, they are actively looking for other dog food companies who would be willing to help offset some of the dog food costs. The UglyDogs have done this before, with their IGiveARod donations over the last two races as they followed their favorite teams along the trail they would donate to different causes in the villages and towns along the race map. 

The donations of food, shipping, etc will greatly help not only the dogs survive - but it also keeps tradition alive. For generations dogs have been a crucial part of life for Alaskans, especially those "off grid" and "off the road system". While the Iditarod was a way to celebrate and keep that tradition alive, the sled dogs of the races look a little different than the dogs used for every day recreation and lifestyle. Dogs that help haul wood, wild game, and other supplies don't need to be fast - but they do need to be strong and hearty - and that requires food. And they'll get it. Thanks in large part to the dedication of fans all over the globe who understand just home important these canines are.

The fundraiser is ongoing for shipping and food costs. You can contact Steph via her twitter account if you would like to help or would like more information. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Walking Along Potter Marsh

Are you annoyed yet? I know this is a lot of photo dumps lately. I should have done this throughout the summer, but I was too busy adventuring to blog, so I apologize. Today's featured adventure was the visit to Potter Marsh just outside of Anchorage Alaska along the Seward Highway. This is a "free" spot for tourists and locals alike to view the local wildlife and landscape. I say "free" because they do ask for a donation, you can place check or cash in a box at the head of the boardwalk. 

There is a boardwalk that takes out out over the Marsh. There are several different "paths" that bring you over waterways where spawning salmon make their way to the spawn beds. Water fowl of every type can be seen all throughout the marsh. Big game like moose and bear frequent the area (moose more than bruin, and normally early morning or late night visits). Several "step outs" have a type of public binocular you can use to see some of the further away wildlife (or look into the homes on the hillside... I joke... kinda.) This is a popular attraction for everyone so be prepared to see a lot of bird watchers, tourists, etc.

On our visit we spotted spawning pink salmon, ducks and other water fowl, and a curious little ermine (also known as a stoat). You can view photos of our visit below.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Year of the Bear

As stated in my other road trip blog posts, 2020 has offered a unique ability to do a little bit of tourism within my home state. Just about all of my summer adventures happened with my best friend and her daughter (who was 10 at the beginning of summer but turned 11 on the first day of the new school year, poor kid). Many of those trips included a quick trip down Skilak Lake Road just about an hour north of where we live. Adds quite a bit of time because we go slow hoping to see some wildlife, and this year has not disappointed. We've seen birds (including a horrible collision between a pick up and a Spruce Hen), squirrels, rabbits... and BEARS. There is a lot of bear activity in that area, both brown and black. We've seen both over the years, but not as often as we've seen them this year (to be fair we don't normally drive that road as much as we have this year). 

One night we were able to catch some photos of a black bear cub (no mommy in sight!) and then a few weeks later we spotted a sow brown bear and her three cubs close by floating on the Russian River. I've included both here just because.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Exploring Independence Mine


Earlier this summer the bestie, the kid, and I all went up to Hatcher's Pass to explore Independence Mine. I'd only been once, and they'd never been. here are images from the day. I'm not going to bore you with a lot of text. If you want to learn more about the area check out Adventuring Alaska's blog post

See more under the cut. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wild Blueberries in Turnagain Pass

Last weekend my best friend, her 11-year-old daughter, and I took a road trip from Anchorage. This has been a different sort of summer, what with Covid-19 shutting down much of the travel industry, so the roads have been a little more clear of tourist traffic. Alaskans have all taken advantage, and we're no exception. We'd already planned to make this summer one of many trips to touristy parts of the state, but with a lot of the mandates we've opted to stick to our normal routes and explore the "wilds" where we can. We've dubbed it the "Summer of Sub-Par Adventures" because after introducing the Indiana Jones movies to the kid, she decided she could not be an adventurer, and could only do sub-par adventures. 

Anyway, on our way up we stopped off in Turnagain Pass. There are trails behind the rest stop, and I'd wanted to explore for many years but we're always on our way somewhere - plus I am not gonna do it by myself! - and this was the day! We made a spur of the moment decision. The 11-year-old was not convinced we would have fun until we suggested if she looked she might be able to find some sort of berry to eat. This perked her up and we let her lead the way. Have to say she is a good little Alaskan-type Sherpa.... except she likes hills and I do not.

The trails are well worn, but often dead end, so there was a lot of searching for the next one, but that just meant we could keep going further into the pass. We didn't do any creek crossings, but we were tempted to try and find our way to the bridge used in winter for the snowmachines and back country skiers. My best friend has been obsessed with the bridge all summer as we pass through the area and she spies it through the bushes. Her goal was to find it (spoiler: we never did), but the Kid had no idea what we were talking about and was just focused on finding berries (she had very little idea on what she was looking for there, too). 

To be honest, we have very little knowledge on berries. We were hoping we'd run into something easy like blueberries where we wouldn't have to dive into our rusty knowledge of what a safe red in color berry looked like (like cranberries, salmonberries, etc). The Kid kept telling us "facts" on how you could tell which berries were poisonous and which ones weren't, and none of it sounded correct - but that doesn't mean it wasn't. Still, it gave her a goal while her mom and I explored an area we drive through so many times and never stop to enjoy.

The fall colors weren't all the way out yet, I'm guessing we've got more color in the area now (man, should've gone to find some POP this weekend). But it was still more fall than summer in both temperature and foliage. We were not the only "hikers" in the area and we met quite a few dogs out on the trail. Just a great afternoon jaunt on the mountainside.

Either we weren't good at spotting the berries, or they just weren't around for the first part of our walk. It's wasn't long before my bestie and I got a little silly. The 11-year-old was not amused. She's definitely in the age where she is easily embarrassed by the adults in her life and to be honest I'm totally here for it. I was belting out Disney's "Just Around the River Bend" (Pocahontas) and her mother was all about "The Sound of Music"... you can clearly see from the pictures that the child was not amused. If looks could kill!

We reluctantly turned around to head back to the car to continue to make our way to Anchorage. The Kid ran up ahead to get away from the most embarrassing people she knows. As we made our way, the bestie looked down and spotted a few blueberries. The Kid came running back to gather them up, then suddenly it was like the ground exploded and they were everywhere! We spent several minutes scooping up handfuls. At one point I smooshed a bunch on my shoe - and then the kid fell and sat in a big bunch of them so it looked like we'd slaughtered something. We all laughed a lot!

We didn't bring any containers so we only took what we could carry in our hands and the kid ate them all as she walked back to the car (fine by me, I don't like berries of any color). All in all a fun experience and we're already talking about trying different trails next time.

Friday, September 18, 2020

New Mid-Distance Sled Dog Race Announced

In a year where everything seems so up in the air comes news that a new 250 mile sled dog race is happening this winter in Alaska. The "Sweeps Sleddog Race" will run out of Caswell, and promises to be a difficult and challenging race. According to the race's newly created website, the "company" is "headed up" by Renee Crawford and the race is "facilitated by an advisory board". Iditarod Rookie of the Year's Mille Porsild heads up the rule committee, and Sam Crawford is the trail boss. 

Teams of 8-dogs will run the 250 mile course that "will be well-marked, but not necessarily broken" stopping in three checkpoints for 15 minutes each for a mandatory dog check. Teams must start with no more than 8 and finish with no less than 6, with no substitutions along the way. There are no mandatory hours of rest, however teams must spend at least 15 minutes in the checkpoint upon entering for a mandatory vet check of the dogs. There are a total of 49 rules, and a note at the end on possible trail conditions and hazards:

"Sweeps urges Racers in the race to fully prepare themselves and their team for possible hazardous trail conditions and challenging weather conditions. Part of the trail will be in remote lightly traveled areas and racers who lose the trail must be prepared for survival in such an emergency situation. The trail will be marked and the progress of racers will be closely monitored. However, weather may prevent a Racer from being helped in the event Racer is lost. Please plan accordingly."

The race could go to 300 miles, depending on trail and weather conditions, or could be shortened. The official trail and mileage will be decided closer to the race start and will be announced at the musher meeting ahead of the race. The purse is a hefty $4,000 (that's an Iditarod sized entry fee), but the purse payout is promised to be a big one (winner could bank up to $40,000 depending on entries). There is a limit of 25 teams and a minimum of 21 teams; there is no limit to how many teams from one kennel may enter.  

The website went live on Friday and news is traveling. At this time there's no information on whether or not there will be trackers for fans to follow - but with the race falling back on older race type rules and infrastructure it may be a safe bet that fans will have to rely on official reports from the race. There's also no social media presence for the race itself. Hopefully these and other questions will be answered as it gets closer to race time.

It will be interesting to see how this race progresses and how sign ups go. Deadline to sign your team up is December 1, 2020. Race start will be February 19, 2021. 

Willow 300 needs volunteers

September into October often sees many sled dog races start to amp up their social media presence (if they have one at all) with updates on race dates and registration links. It's not often that a race starts asking for volunteers to commit to shifts so soon, but that's what the Willow 300 did on Tuesday. The Willow 300 is a fairly new race in Alaska - having started in 2017, but having to cancel in 2019 due to weather. The race returned in 2020, but has always struggled for man power. 2020 saw a small field of volunteers having multiple duties all at once. There was talk of burn out, but the love of the dogs and sport kept them in the trenches. 

Wanting to improve the quality of the volunteer experience, as well as address burn out and safety concerns, the Willow 300's 2021 race is contingent on volunteer sign ups. The teams to run the race are there, but they need the infrastructure to successfully continue one of the few races in South Central Alaska used as an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. 

"Urgent: Please spread the word.
We want more than anything to hold the Willow 300 Sled Dog Race this year, but if we can be frank, we need more volunteers to make it happen. Experience, no experience, all are welcome.
The last few years we have managed on fewer volunteers than we really should have. We never jeopardized safety, and we never will, but this year, due to not only Covid but the strain of everything else that is ongoing, many of our regular volunteers may not be able to assist. Due to travel constraints, essential employees needed where they are and economic reasons, many volunteers will have to sit out this race.
If you can help, in any capacity, we need a firm commitment of the day or days, hours you can give us. We can take it from there once we have people who are willing to commit. We will see where you can be placed and work with you to make it happen.
We can't stress enough the urgency of our need. Will you help keep a tradition alive?
If so, please contact us by pm or contact Marshall at 907-707-9254. Call or text is fine.
If you are a musher and have friends or family that can volunteer, we appreciate you sharing our call for help. 🙂
The dates of the Willow 300 are Thursday, February 4 - Sunday, February 7, 2021. Volunteers are also needed the day before and after the race dates.
Thank you in advance for helping us keep a wonderful tradition alive." - W300 Facebook

The volunteer positions will mainly fall to Alaskans with the pandemic still hanging over the race season. While the Willow 300 has not stated what - if any - special accommodations they have planned depending the state of Covid by February, several other races have given details into how they will keep contamination to a minimum. The Yukon Quest has cancelled their Canadian version of the 300 - which originally was going to be in place of the 1,000 mile race - and on the Alaskan side they've renamed the 300 race to the Summit Quest. Iditarod put out a statement this weekend saying that they are planning for several options dependent on the severity of the Covid-19 Pandemic by March and how villages feel. The Kuskokwim 300 gave the most detailed plan this week on how they plan to allow teams and volunteers to travel into the Western Alaska town and villages. 

With travel still limited, it may be a great way to encourage Alaskans to stop thinking of Hawaii and instead take up some volunteering with the state's official sport. If you are interested in volunteering for the Willow 300 contact Marshall at 907.707.9254 for info. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

2020/21 Race Season Schedule

Yes, this blog is still active. Don't judge the lack of posts thinking Covid's taken another fun thing from our lives. It's just with Covid a lot of things have been up in the air regarding race season, but good news! Races are staying positively optimistic that the season will go on as planned. There will be, of course, changes to how races are run (best example is there is no thousand mile Yukon Quest this year due to border restrictions) because of the pandemic are still being worked out, but overall the winter is looking bright for sport lovers ready for something to follow. Below is the schedule with most of the big races in North America and Europe featured. The list will be updated as time allows and information comes in. If I have missed a race you feel should be included, please leave a comment below and I'll do my best to find info. Most races on the list come from the Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifying races list.

Alpine Creek 200/300
TBA, December 2020

Knik 200*
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

MUSH Synnfjell
January 1, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Gunflint Mail Run
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Copper Basin 300*
January 9, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Kuskokwim 300*
February 12, 2021 (postponed from original date)
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Caribou Classic Sled Dog Race
Website / Facebook

Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race*
January 20, 2022
Website / Facebook 

Tustumena 200*
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon*
January 31, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Willow 300*
February 4, 2021
Website / Facebook 

February 5, 2021
Website / Facebook 

Caledonia Classic
Website / Facebook

Yukon Quest*
TBA, February 2022
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Summit Quest (Formerly AK Yukon 300)*
February 13, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Bergebyløpet N70
February 12, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook

Amundsen Race*
TBA 2021
Website / Facebook 

Race to the Sky*
February 12, 2021
Website / Facebook 

Website / Facebook 

Canadian Challenge*
February 17, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race
February 20, 2021
Website / Facebook

Yukon Journey 450 & 200
February 21, 2021
Website / Facebook

Two Rivers 100/200*
February 25, 2021

Junior Iditarod
February 27, 2021

Iditarod 49*
March 6, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Can-Am Crown International*
Website / Facebook 

March 12, 2021
Website / Facebook 

Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Run*
March 6, 2021
Website / Twitter / Facebook 

Hudson Bay Quest
TBA, March 2021
Website / Facebook

Nome to Council 200*
TBA, March 2021

Kobuk 440*
TBA, April 2021
Website / Facebook

*Iditarod/Yukon Quest Qualifying Race