Dog sled racing to return to Dillon Reservoir after almost 20-year hiatus

The event hosted by the town of Dilllon will include skijor and bikejor, events where dogs pull people on skis and bikes, in addition to more traditional dog sled races.

Sled dog racing will make a return to the Dillon Reservoir on Saturday, Feb. 25, for the first time in at least 20 years.
Julie Schultz/Courtesy photo

For what may be the first time in more than 20 years, dog sled races will be held on the Dillon Reservoir.

The town of Dillon will host Mountain Musher Dog Sleds on Saturday, Feb. 25, with dozens of teams expected to compete in a range of dog-sledding events. The event is free to attend. There is a registration fee for those planning to race.

“The reservoir used to be used for dog sledding,” said Suzanne Phillipson, Dillon’s marketing and communications manager. “Back in the ’70s, over 100 teams would compete.”

With the event now back at the reservoir, “people can look forward to seeing dog sled racing and dog sled mushing up close,” Phillipson said.

She added that people can also look forward to, “hanging out with dogs.”

Molly Cushing, the race giving organizer and vice president of the Mountain Mushers’ board of directors, said the group’s sister club used to host races on the Frisco side of the reservoir starting back in the 1960s.

These days, the sport has transformed as rural mushers capable of raising and training large teams of dogs have become rarer and urban mushers with just a few dogs have become more common, according to Cushing.

“What you’re going to see then at the Dillon race is not just these big teams,” she said. “You’re going to see what we call ‘mushing today,’ which includes a bunch of different classes.”

In additional to more traditional dog sled racing, such as that pictured here, the event on Saturday, Feb. 25, will include skijor and bikejor.
Julie Schultz/Courtesy photo

So, in addition to events with sleds pulled by six dogs or four dogs, there will be skijor and bikejor — events where dogs pull people on skis or bikes — as well as canicross, where people run as their dog pulls them, Cushing said.

Moreover, it’s not just huskies that will be racing. 

“Sled dog sports doesn’t just mean husky,” Cushing said. “It’s every kind of dog you can imagine that has an interest in running — who has an interest in pulling.”

She said that’s likely to include Alaskan huskies, Eurohounds, Labradors, Australian shepards, maybe a Samoyed or two, and potentially even a corgi.

In addition to races for adult mushers, there will be races available for those under the age of 12 and ages 13 through 17. Registration for racers begins at 7 a.m. The races start at 9 a.m.

Cushing said the most exciting part of the races is the start, when the dogs explode with energy. And pay attention to the connection between the dogs and the musher, she said, because a lot goes into that relationship.

“It’s more than trust,” Cushing said. “It’s a friendship. It’s a partnership.”

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