Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Race season in Alaska begins in December

It's the most wonderful time of the year. With those holiday greetings, and sled dog race meetings, where loved ones are... wait... what?

That's right, race fans! We're into the first few races of the season! Can you believe it?! Weren't we just talking about Iditarod 50 last week? Okay, well, some of us are still talking about it all these months later. But, really, the race season in Alaska gets underway in just a few short days. 

While December does not host a lot of "big" races that are used to qualify for the super bowl of dog mushing (Iditarod), it's a way to shake loose the cobwebs and get into the racing mindset. This season we're hoping to see an exciting new series of races called the Delta Championship Series that kicks off - hopefully - the first weekend in December with a race simply titled "Season Opener".

So why do we see so few races in December? Simply put, weather and trail conditions. While, yes, most years we don't have to dream of a White Christmas in Alaska and the Yukon, the rivers aren't always quite as frozen as they need to be for teams to travel safely on them. Even if it's "just" a river crossing, teams and trail sweeps need to have confidence that the ice won't break out from underneath them. Overflow is also a concern, and no one wants to be wet in negative degree temperatures (which currently most of Alaska is experiencing).

So a few smaller, faster, more fun races happen to just get everyone back in the groove before mid-distance races really take off in January.

For Bethel's "Season Opener" race, it is set to be a 32 mile out and back fun run. Few details have been made public mainly because they are still observing and testing trail conditions. A decision to push back the race will happen by December 1, but if all goes to plan they will leave out of Bethel on Saturday, December 3, and follow the Atmautluak trail.

Should the Season Opener go off as planned the next races will be the Alpine Creek Excursion on Dec. 10, followed by the Holiday Classic (2nd race in Delta Championship series) on the 17th, and then the Two Rivers Solstice race on, well, the Solstice. 

For a list of most major races (ie Iditarod/Quest qualifiers, plus a few fan requests) be sure to bookmark my 2022-23 Race Schedule.

*And as an aside, Mushing Radio's podcasts will go to once a week through the race season. We're still working out the schedule so if you have an opinion hop on twitter and vote in the poll I've created that will run for the next five or so days. We will go to a weekly program instead of bi-weekly in January, and of course we'll have our daily coverage in March during the Iditarod.

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