Trail conditions should be excellent for the Wolf Track Classic Sled Dog race, set for Feb. 24.
REGIONAL – Recent snowfall has produced some of the best trail conditions ever for the WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race, according to race director Steve Branstrom.
The scenario was far different last season when the race was called off due to a lack of snow cover.
“The trails are in great shape,” said Branstrom. “They’re groomed and like a freeway. We could have our best times ever in the race if the conditions are favorable on race day.”
Both the six-dog and 10-dog races are scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 24.
There have been some changes made to this year’s event. Although the six-dog race will begin in Ely and end in Tower as in previous years, the 10-dog race, which also starts in Ely, will finish in Cook. Previously, mushers returned to Ely from Cook on a 130-mile round trip course.
“We wanted to make the race more spectator-friendly,” said Branstrom, who noted that mushers should start arriving in Cook by late afternoon, giving people a good opportunity to see the race’s finish. Another change in the route will bring the 10-dog teams through Tower by the Iron Ore Bar for another opportunity for spectators to get a glimpse of the teams, he added.
So far, 10 mushers have registered for the 10-dog race while 20 are registered for the six-dog race, according to Randy Scott, president of the WolfTrack Classic Board, That’s consistent with past registrations with a large number registering in the final days prior to the race. The two races typically attract a combined 50-60 mushers, Scott said, adding that $4,000 in prize money will be awarded this year.
Several area mushers will be competing. Those registered for the six-dog race include Gail Branstrom of Babbitt, Dusty Klaven of Gheen, and Elizabeth Graves and Theo Theobald of Ely.
Race events begin on Saturday, Feb. 23 with the mandatory vet checks for dog teams. The vet checks run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Vermilion Community College. The event is free and open to the public.
Later that same day is a chili feed at the Ely Senior Nutrition Site, 27 South First Ave. E. The public is invited to take part in the feed, which runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is $8 per person.
A social hour, beginning at 4 p.m., will precede the dinner. A musher meeting will be convened after the dinner at 6:30 p.m. with bib presentations following at 7 p.m.
The start for the 10-dog teams will be at 9 a.m. on Sunday at the softball fields in Ely. Teams will be staggered with two-minute breaks between each start. “Their race is with the clock,” said Branstrom.
The first 10-dog teams should arrive at the Tower checkpoint near the Iron Ore Bar, Depot and Civic Center about 11 a.m., according to Branstrom. They will continue on to Cook where the first teams will arrive at the Doug Johnson Recreation Area about 2 p.m.
The staggered start for the six-dog race will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Ely and finish in Tower.
The awards ceremony for the six-dog teams will be held at the Tower Civic Center beginning at about 4 p.m. The awards ceremony for the 10-dog teams will be at Cook at the Doug Johnson Recreation Area at about 5 p.m.
This year marks the fifth anniversary for the WolfTrack Classic, which was started by a group of sled-dog enthusiasts who recalled the Ely All-American Sled Dog races. The well-known event ended in the mid-80s.
“This is sacred ground for dog-sledders,” said Branstrom about Ely.
A list of other good areas to view the dog-sled teams during the races can be found on the WolfTrack Classic website at www.wolftrackclassic.com.