Feb. 12, 2007
Sled Dogs Pack the Trails at Winona Forest This Winter
A skijorer and dog run along a trail at Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center in Redfield. A series of four sled dog events will take place in northern Oswego County this February and March. (Photo courtesy of Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center.)
The snow is back and here to stay!
While some folks may be trying to avoid the snow, winter enthusiasts are excited and ready for some fun! Oswego County is known for winter activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing, but perhaps the most exciting events this winter will be four competitive sled dog races in February and March.
The Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club will sponsor the 14th Annual Tug Hill Challenge, Feb. 17 and 18; the Mannsville Quest, Feb. 24; the Winona Forest Sled Dog Derby, Feb. 25, all at Winona State Forest Recreation Area; and the Salmon Hills Ski and Sled Race, March 10 and 11 at Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center in Redfield.
“Beneath all the noise, color, and spectacle of perhaps as many as 1,000 howling huskies lays the most powerful draw - the warm bond between human and dog,” notes Jason Sperry, alternate trail boss and board member of the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club.
Each event will offer more than sled dog racing; participants will have the opportunity to skijor.
How does one skijor?
Nancy Aubrey, race organizer of the Tug Hill Challenge, describes skijoring as using cross country skis and a harness while being pulled by a team of one to three dogs. A 7- to 12-foot line attaches the skier to the dogs.
These events not only provide enjoyment for the mushers, skijorers, and spectators, but provide economic opportunity for the surrounding area, said David Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.
According to Sperry, mushers generally budget $500 for the weekend for each sled dog race. This includes gas, lodging, food, race fees, and other miscellaneous traveling expenses.
“It is estimated that for the entire season in the Tug Hill area, a total of $148,500 will be spent by competitors alone in the host communities,” said Sperry.
So why are all of these events hosted in the Tug Hill area? Because, says Sperry, “it's the best snow east of the Rocky Mountains!”
The Tug Hill Challenge races Feb. 17 and 18 are sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association and will draw amateur and professional teams, purebred and sportsman classes at all levels and ages. Races start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Mannsville Quest will be held Saturday, Feb. 24. Sponsored by the North Country Kennel Club, Seneca Siberian Husky Club, and the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club, the quest is a one-day race that covers 10 to 15 miles of trails. Dogs must be AKC/CKC registered Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes, or Samoyeds. Following the race, a dinner will be offered for racers and spectators at the Mannsville Fire Station.
The following day, Sunday, Feb. 25, the Winona Forest Sled Dog Derby will take place for amateur and professional teams, purebred and sportsman classes.
A “kid and mutt dash” will be at each of the three events. There will be time reserved for children to ride a 100-meter dash on a dog sled. All children from different racing backgrounds are encouraged to participate. Dogs and equipment will be provided.
The events will begin and end at the CCC camp in Lorraine. Take I-81 to exit 39 in Mannsville. Turn east at the stop sign, go straight through intersection at US 11 to county Route 90, Mannsville Road, in Jefferson County, and follow the signs to the CCC camp. The camp is on the left hand side of county Route 90. Refreshments will be available at the CCC camp.
Winona State Forest contains more than 9,000 acres and more than 30 miles of trails that meander on park roads and through wooded areas. “Winona Forest is absolutely beautiful,” said Aubrey.
Another great place for winter activities is the Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center, which, according to Sperry, “provides some of the best groomed trails ever to see a sled dog race.” 2007 will be year two for the Salmon Hills Ski and Sled Race. 2006 offered only skijoring, but this year, sled dog races will be added to their calendar. This two-day event will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 10 and 11.
The Salmon Hills Outdoor Adventure Center provides lodging on site. Salmon Hills is located on Noble Shores Drive, off county Route 2 in Redfield. For more directions, visit www.salmonhills.com/directions.htm.
Each race this season is free for spectators. Aubrey encourages spectators to “come and watch to see the dogs working and enjoying what they were bred to do!”
For places to stay and other events this winter in Oswego County, call the Oswego County Division of Promotion and Tourism at 315/349-8322, or visit www.visitoswegocounty.com.
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