Idaho dog sledding

The third annual Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is returning to McCall on Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 during the 2020 McCall Winter Carnival. Part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, the race features world-class mushers and is an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. Race organizers are seeking volunteers to staff checkpoints and help handle dogs.

MCCALL — The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is returning for the third year Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 during the 2020 McCall Winter Carnival.

According to a press release, the race features world-class mushers and is the only 300-mile Yukon Quest qualifier in the lower 48 and one of only three such events in the contiguous continental U.S. states for the Iditarod. The Iditarod and the Yukon Quest are considered the longest and the toughest sled dog races in the world.

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, which also includes the Eagle Cap Extreme Jan. 22-25 near Joseph, Ore., and the Race to the Sky Feb. 7-11 near Helena, Mont.

According to one of the principal volunteers and spokespersons, Dave Looney, the Idaho race is considered one of the most grueling mushing competitions in the world due to its topography.

“Mushers will tell you this is a very, very atypical race,” Looney said. “Our elevation change is 44,000 feet, which is greater than the Iditarod. They call it a 500-mile race packed into 300 miles. So the dog care and the pacing and the attention they have to pay to the terrain is really important, because there’s a lot of up and down. One musher said the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is like climbing Mt. Everest — twice.”

In addition to the 300-mile Iditarod and Yukon qualifier, this year’s Idaho Sled Dog Challenge offers a 100-mile race for people newer to the sport and a 37-mile race for juniors ages 14 to 17.

Several race events are open to the public and free of charge and you can follow the race online day or night via GPS sled trackers or by visiting five road-accessible checkpoints. Visit idahosleddogchallenge.com for checkpoint locations, driving directions, a local resources guide, musher bios, and more.

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