LINCOLN — Mushers and their dogs have descended on the town of Lincoln for the annual Race To The Sky sled dog race. On Friday the teams underwent their final check before the race gets underway on Saturday.
The races begin on February 12th and the event will continue through Tuesday the 15th. Racers can participate in a variety of race types including the 300-mile race which is actually a qualifier for the Iditarod.
Cindy Gallea, from Minnesota, has been mushing dogs for over 30 years. Her love of the sport, dogs, and community was evident as we spoke. As she enters her 70’s she’s decided that this weekend’s 300-mile race will be her last.
“The people are great, it's so gorgeous, trails are really nice, and it's usually not bitterly cold, but it's going to be a little bitterly warm, maybe, but yeah. So it's a nice way to let go,” says Gallea.
This year’s race is also significant as it’s the first Race To The Sky event to take place without co-founder Dave Armstrong. Armstrong passed away in April of last year after reaching the age of 100. Pam Beckstrom, Race To The Sky vice president, will be reading a tribute to Armstrong at the start of the race.
After last year’s race was canceled due to COVID, mushers, dogs, and the public alike are excited to be back on the snow.
“We have gotten so much support from Lincoln, Seeley Lake, and Helena, and Missoula. I mean it's just been overwhelming. I've had so many calls from people that can't wait to come. It means a lot to this community, the mushing community, and also to the community,” says Beckstrom.
From the Race To The Sky website:
The races were organized first as Montana’s Governor’s Cup Sled Dog Race in 1986 and they ran the first 500 mile race in February of that year. Since that year, Race to the Sky has been an Iditarod qualifier. In 1989, they became Montana Sled Dog, Inc. Each February, since then, MSDI has been hosting this distance race. It has gone through several distance changes, including adding a 250 mile race, a 300 mile race and changing the 500 mile race to a 350 mile continuous format race. We now organize three races “within” a race. We have the 300 mile distance race, the 100 mile junior continuous race and the 100 mile adult continuous race.
People are encouraged to bundle up and come out to support the racers and dogs. If you can’t make it out to the race, Pam tells me they keep track of the racers’ locations and update it on their website.