Blog Jules Gems Pedigree Stage Stop Race February 2019 - Photography of Julie Picardi

The Largest Sled Dog Race In The Lower 48 January 2019

Meet & Greet the Dogs and Mushers


Yep, many of our southern friends think we are crazy. After all, when most people head south to retire, my husband and I moved to Colorado to play outside year round.  The dry, snowy climate is conducive to some adventures one can't find just anywhere - like  dog sled racing.


We stumbled upon this event two years ago while visiting Jackson Hole in late January on our way to Yellowstone. Signs posted around the town square welcomed visitors to meet the mushers and their dogs during the pre-race vetting. Curious, I showed up. Trucks and trailers, some large, some small, were parked in a vacant lot a couple of blocks from the town square. Each rig was surrounded by a minimum of 10 and sometimes up to 20 friendly, barking, animated dogs. I was infatuated. Never before had I been in the midst of so many happy, vociferous canines. The din was impressive, but as I walked about, I forgot about the noise and became immersed in learning about this sport.


Mushers and assistants stood near their teams engrossed in conversation with visitors or with the vets checking out each dog. Wading through wriggling bodies and wagging tails, I returned to the car to fetch my camera and decided that regardless of how cold it might be after sunset, I had to watch the kick-off race start tonight. To see a little bit of the excitement, watch the teams start in the video at the bottom of the page.



History of the race

The Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race was established in 1996 by Frank Teasley, a Wyoming musher, and Jayne Ottman, a Wyoming public health nurse, with three goals in mind: to promote the beautiful country of Wyoming, to bring sled dog racing to the general population, and to foster childhood vaccination education with each host community receiving a contribution toward childhood immunizations from the race proceeds.


Twenty-five 10-dog teams competed for the $165,000 purse this year, the winner receiving a $10,000 cash prize - no small change! The annual event begins with a meet and greet on the last Friday in January from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Deloney parking lot near the town square. The mushers congregate with their dogs, waiting by their rigs for the dogs to be vetted. While the dogs are issued their clean bill of health, visitors are free to meet the dogs and chat with team members as they wait their turn. 


In the evening at 5 p.m. the pre-race events begin in the town square. At 6:30 p.m. the first dogs leave the chute for the ceremonial 2-mile start through Jackson, ending at Snow King with a fireworks celebration following the race.  


Unlike the Iditarod, this race follows a model similar to the Tour de France, with the teams starting a new leg each day in a different community. The teams race through the beautiful landscapes of the Bridger Teton, Shoshone and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. Each team completes 30-35 mile legs each day starting from a different venue for a full week. One rest day is built into the week's schedule.


 Following each day's competition, the mushers travel to the next location for an evening meet and greet often combined with a community dinner. Some mushers spend the night with a host family while others stay at a local lodge. This year the communities of Alpine, WY, Pinedale, WY, Kemmerer, WY, Big Piney/Marbleton, WY, Lander, WY,  Driggs, ID, and Teton County, WY were hosts for the race events.  


Clicking on any photo on this page will take you to the gallery if you wish to see additional pictures of the event.



The Dogs

Today's sled dogs are different from what one would expect. No longer are they the big, heavy,  fluffy Siberian Husky type we have seen in storybooks. Today's sled dogs are smaller, lighter, and bred to run. They are essentially a mutt breed with origins of Siberian husky, greyhound, pointer, Irish setter, border collie and other breeds. Born with a thick, double layer coat they can withstand frigid temperatures and are happiest running in 10 degree Fahrenheit conditions. The Alaskan husky we see today has a soft, dense undercoat and a coarse outer coat. They may be black, white, brown or multi-colored with blue or brown eyes or perhaps one of each. Many kennels breed their own dogs to produce the ultimate athlete - and athletes they are in every respect. They must be trainable, have the temperament to work closely in harness with the other dogs, have a work ethic like no one's business and have a fuel-efficient body to survive the bitter climate. The mushers and their dogs have a business type of relationship on the trail but are more like family when not pulling the sled. The mutual love and adoration between the dogs and the mushers is obvious as one hangs around the teams.

Does this dog look happy enough?

What's In That Sled?

Every race has its rules, some of which pertain to the equipment which must be carried in the sled. Mandatory items include a winter parka, an ax, dog food, and a headlamp. One might also find dog booties, dog pullovers, an extra hat, gloves, and facemask for the musher, and extra lines. Many dogs today wear booties for paw protection and some even use eye goggles!


For more information on this event, go to

https://www.wyomingstagestop.org


or connect with them on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/PedigreeStageStopRace/






The two videos below give insight into the excitement involved just being a spectator. In today's world of security lines and metal detectors, it is refreshing to attend an event where there are no barricades except for some mounds of snow. The mushers and their teams plus the race officials welcome the general public and allow visitors to feel included and appreciated in their world of the sled dogs. Both times that I have attended the event, I have left on an indescribable high. Maybe you have to love dogs for this feeling, but who doesn't love man's best friend? Until next time my Alaskan Husky friends, until next time. 

Pedigree Stage Stop Race

Pedigree Stage Stop Race Alpine, Wy Leg

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