Sled dog race to be held at Hanson Hills in March
Thu, 02/25/2021 - 4:39pm caleb
Kalkaska-based association to conduct weekend of racing, bring a new competition to the Grayling area
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
NOTE: This event has been cancelled due to unfavorable trail conditions, organizers reported on Wednesday, March 10. The group is now planning a dry land series of dog sled races at Hanson Hills on April 17-18.
Hanson Hills is known for its wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities – skiing, snowboarding, tubing, hiking, cycling, disc golf, fishing – and in March it will be adding a new one to the list – sled dog racing – as a Kalkaska-based group brings a series of dog races to Grayling.
The races – conducted by the Great Lakes Sled Dog Association, which is based in Kalkaska – are currently slated for Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14, starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Organizers said the event will feature a series of distances and classes during the two-day event. It will feature six-mile, four-mile, and two-mile courses, and each one can be done with two-dog, four-dog, or six-dog sleds, or skijour competitors with one or two dogs. (Skijour is a combination of cross country skiing and dog racing with the skier attached to the dog via harness, organizers said.) Competitors can participate in more than one race.
Bryan Bearss of Grayling, one of the event organizers, said the Great Lakes Sled Dog Association has been conducting races “for quite a while,” including some out of state and some in Canada. Bearss, who moved back to Grayling after living in Alaska for 12 years, competed in the Iditarod twice, as well as several other long distance sled dog races.
Bearss said after moving back to Grayling he started hiking at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area trails, and he thought they would be great for both dry land and winter dog sled races. He joined Great Lakes Sled Dog Association members for a walk through the trail system, and they “thought it would be perfect” for racing.
Organizers said Hanson Hills plans to allow the association to conduct the race series using the groomed cross country ski trails.
Bearss said he’s done some research and he believes this will be the first official sled dog race to be held in Grayling. Organizers are hoping it will become an annual event.
“It’s a test run but hopefully it can turn into something annual,” said Mandy Collins of the Great Lakes Sled Dog Association.
Collins said the association expects around 50 competitors for the event.
“I don’t think it’ll be super huge because of COVID,” she said.
All registration for competitors will be conducted online, according to the association. The registration link will be available at the Great Lakes Sled Dog Association Facebook page, organizers said.
Bearss said most or all of the competitors will likely be from out of town, so he hopes the event will provide a boost for area businesses and restaurants and hotels.
Organizers said spectators are welcome and there will not be an admission charge. Bearss said inside the softball field would be a good viewing location because the races will start in the area outside the outfield fence and loop back around, offering a look at the competitors starting and finishing.
Organizers said races will take approximately 18 minutes for the six-mile course, 14 minutes for the four-mile course, and 10 minutes for the two-mile course.
“It will be fast and furious. Non-stop action,” Bearss said.
Organizers expect the races to finish between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day.
Organizers ask that spectators do not bring their own dogs, and that they ask permission from competitors before touching any of the racing dogs. Bearss said that in general the dogs are friendly because they are mostly pets in addition to being “work dogs” and racers.
“It could be interesting for the community to see something new like this,” Bearss said. “It would be cool to see another user group out there.”
Grayling Recreation Authority/Hanson Hills officials said they’re looking forward to offering something different.
“We’re excited to be able to offer a new event,” said Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority. “It’ll be a new user group for us. We’re working with their organization to make the coolest possible race we can. We’re excited to try something new.”