The situation is becoming all too familiar. The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race is a week away and the trail is not looking good. This year there is little snow, and the ice is thin and perforated with open holes. But poor conditions have never stopped a race, and the K300 Race Committee is looking at how to stake out a safe trail this year. KYUK talked with Race Manager Madelene Reichard about where those plans are now.
Reichard: We know that the river is not as thick as it was last year, so we are currently working out a safe route for teams to run on. We’re currently discussing start lines, and discussing open water and how to avoid that, and we’re trying to find the best possible and safest option.
KYUK: I’ve heard some people float the idea of running an overland trail to the tundra villages instead of going towards Aniak. Is that an option being considered?
Reichard: Not currently. We are still planning on running towards Aniak. They have a great amount of snow, great compared to what we have down here. So we’re sort of looking for ways to keep it on our traditional route because they have probably the better half of the trail at this point.
KYUK: So all the usual checkpoints - Tuluksak, Kalskag, Aniak - you’re looking at maintaining right now?
Reichard: We are pretty solid with the plan that we’re going to run our fairly traditional route. We are waiting on word back from trail marking crews to release the official race route.
KYUK: What are the trail crews currently doing?
Reichard: They are currently out marking the trails, making sure that if there’s ice that it’s scratched up so we can get some traction. Making sure that if there’s snow that we can get a good, defined trail there. And making sure that it’s marked; heavily marked. And I know that there’s been a lot of open water; we’ve been talking about that. Search and Rescue has been doing a great job marking it with blue taped markers. There will be some that will be marked with either blue or red tape, because there’s a shortage of blue tape. So I just want to let people know that if they see a red taped marker, that that means do not go over there.
KYUK: Has the Race Committee talked with local mushers in the area about conditions? What are they saying about it?
Reichard: The Race Committee has been talking to several mushers up and down the Kuskokwim. And we’re all on the same page that we need to find a safe route that is runnable for a dog team. Just because a snowmachine can go on it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for a dog team, so we’ve been talking a lot with mushers in town, mushers out of town, about what we think is best.
KYUK: And what have local mushers been saying about current conditions? Have they been out mushing?
Reichard: People have been out mushing. People are still out training. This is the weather now, so we’re kind of getting used to it, unfortunately. And we’re having to find a way to work with less and less snow, but people have been out and people have been training.
KYUK: Thank you, Madi.
KYUK: Madelene Reichard is the Race Manager for the K300.
Twenty-one mushers are currently signed up for this year’s race. The K300 Committee will release a final trail route on January 13. The race kicks off January 19. To sign up as a volunteer, email email@example.com.