While Alaska’s two biggest sled dog races have reduced their prize money, the Kuskokwim 300 is doing the opposite. The Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee has raised the purses of its three largest races for the fifth time in seven years. The increase is $10,000 per race.
Race Manager Madelene Reichard says that the raise comes because of more money from new and longtime sponsors.
"There’s been a good increase of income from certain sponsors, and we’re always looking for new sponsorship," Reichard said.
She added that community support, along with the 1980s and 90s retro logos on recent race merchandise, also helped.
The purse for the biggest race, the Kuskokwim 300, now totals $160,000. The Bogus Creek 150 and Akiak Dash will also see bigger payouts. For the Bogus race, the purse now totals $60,000 and the total for the Aniak Dash is now $30,000. This adds up to a total of $250,000 in prize money awarded over the K300 weekend. Reichard says that increased purses are vital to keeping dog mushing thriving in Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
"If we’re finding ourselves with extra income, we want to make sure that it is getting back into the community and to the mushers and kennels itself," Reichard said.
This is a big goal, especially as Alaska’s most famous race cut its purse last year. Hurting for cash, the Iditarod sled dog race slashed its payouts by $250,000, according to the Anchorage Daily News. And this year, the 1000-mile Yukon Quest also announced that it is cutting its prize money by $10,000, reports KTUU.
Training, caring for, and feeding sled-dogs for racing is expensive, and less prize money can deter local mushers that don’t have major sponsors and must compete on tighter budgets from entering races.
But a key difference between the 1000-mile races and the K300 is scale, which could give the K300 more of an edge when it comes to fundraising. The K300 is smaller than the Iditarod and the Quest, and relies almost completely on volunteers to keep it going. Reichard says that increasing the prize money will hopefully entice more local mushers to compete and continue this iconic Alaskan sport.
"Everyone’s very excited when we raise the purse because that’s more money they can use for dog food and dog gear, and sleds, and sometimes new dogs," Reichard said.
The K300 Race Committee also puts on five smaller local races and gives out $20,000 for each one. So far, dates have not been set for these smaller races. Reichard says that they’re waiting for the weather to get colder.
But the dates have been set for the three largest races: the K300 and Bogus Creek 150 will start on January 18, and the Akiak Dash will start on January 19.