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Itching for competition: Mushers, dogs prep for Northern Pines Sled Dog Race

Itching for competition: Mushers, dogs prep for Northern Pines Sled Dog Race
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 12:10 PM CST
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IRON RIVER, WI (KBJR) -- A fresh layer of snow will help the mushers and dogs on the trails in Wisconsin this weekend.

Dozens of teams are preparing for the Northern Pines Sled Dog Race in Iron River on Saturday.

And dozens of sled dogs, howling and itching to hit the Northwoods’ trails.

“Their dogs are so excited and they have such a good time. They bark so loud, and it’s chaos,” said Eileen Bentzen, a member of the Special Projects Committee and Iron River Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Northern Pines Sled Dog Race draws mushers in from across the country.

“Getting people up here to the Northland during the wintertime is important,” said Krista Gunderman, Area General Manager of A&W stores.

The 4th annual event brings in revenue that’s then put back into the community.

Bentzen said, “We did a whole bunch of work on the trails this year. So they have gotten longer and safer.

Gunderman’s stores are the main sponsor of the event. Something she says is near and dear to her heart. “I owned a sled dog that was retired,” she said.

Gunderman isn’t the only one sucked into the sled dog world by these furry pups. 12 years ago, musher Chris Kivi was taken by surprise.

He said, “This big 80 lbs malamute comes through the door, bowls me over, and just goes [lick] from bottom to the top.

From that moment, he was sold. He said, “Wound up taking the dog home.”

For 17-year musher Ruth King, it’s not about winning. “We don’t have the fastest dogs but they’re gorgeous!”

But rather the thrill of watching the dogs do what they love. King said, “Have you ever felt so strongly passionate about something, that you felt you were created to do just that? That’s a sled dog.”

For these dedicated mushers, the event is less of a race and more of a lifestyle.

Kivi said, “It’s something you do because you love, you have to. There really isn’t much else I’d rather do.”

The first race starts at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Northern Pines Golf Course. That’s the biggest race of the day, a 32-mile loop.

Mushers will also compete in a 17-mile race starting at 10 a.m.

The 4-Dog Sprint Class beings at 12:45 p.m. and the 6-Dog Sprint Class begins at 2:15 p.m.

Two new events have been added this year including the Weight Pull at 10:30 a.m. and Kids Mutt Run at 11:30 a.m.

Spectators are encouraged to cheer on mushers and check out the teams.

You can find more information on the race and the dog teams, here.

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