BURKE MOUNTAIN SLED DOG DASH

Dedicated Volunteers, and Passionate Organizers Pull Together to Host RaceThe echo of Marian Wafer’s mantra “BELIEVE” was being swept from my mind by the sound of the powerful wind rattling the exterior of the building. As midnight neared, the thermometer outside of my window hovered at 40ºF and was barely visible through the driving rain. My ever optimistic hope began to fade like the wax I was brushing off the runners of my sled and I began to regret posting reports on internet message boards concerning the near perfect conditions we had less than 24 hours prior to the warm spell and rain. Although our trail crew had anticipated that the temperature would drop below 10ºF within the next few hours, we opted not to groom the water logged trail in fear that the snow would clump in the heavy tracks of the Tucker rather than smooth out before it froze. We hoped that all of the effort put into grooming the trail throughout the season would provide us with a solid base and carry us through the rain. As we pulled into the dark, blistering cold staging area on Saturday morning I saw the first of many pieces of orange snow fence that at one time were neatly staked out, but now, were spun around like ribbons on a Christmas package and frozen deep into the icy crust on the surface of the trail. I quickly jumped onto a Scandic and frantically began inspecting the trail in an attempt to repair the damages. I tore the scattered ribbons of snow fencing out of the ice and pounded the fence posts back into snow. As I moved around the trail all of our worst fears came to fruition. Large piles of snow had fallen from the trees above creating stutter bumps that could have thrown a driver from their sled, tree branches which snapped from above were frozen into the icy surface and protruded like spikes laid by police on a road to stop an evading vehicle, and frozen holes from moose walking in the night were 6 inches deep and certainly dangerous to the safety of the dogs. After many delaying attempts to repair the damages it was becoming apparent that the equipment we had on hand would require time to resolve our problems. By 10:30 am, every driver had arrived in the staging area and most were rightfully agitated with anticipation but there was only one decision that could be made with good conscience. It was a hard pill to swallow but after consultation with George and Marian Wafer the inevitable decision to cancel the first day of racing at the 3rd annual Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash, hosted at Kingdom Trails was finalized. The decision to cancel the day of racing was a huge disappointment to the drivers who were competing for end of the season ISDRA points, the race organizers who had aggressively prepared for this event all year, and the spectators who braved the chilly temperatures to turn out for the show. Fortunately, we were able to groom a small loop around the staging area that consisted of mashed potato like ice balls suitable for running on and many teams generously (thank you very much!) showed their support for the event by running small teams around the loop to entertain those who turned out. In hope of repair, the teeth on the Tucker were set down three inches below the solid icy surface as we made our first pass around the entire 15 miles of trail and exposed large plates of ice that would destroy a dog’s feet. As the hours passed, we adjusted both the depth of the teeth and altered the speed at which we groomed and the trail seemed to be reviving. Within 12 hours we were able to make 8 passes around the entire trail system and although the conditions were not perfect, as Sunday morning approached nothing more than small grains of ice remained and the conditions were more than suitable for the 92 teams that returned for a smooth day of Sunday racing.Although the 3rd annual Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash was only held for a single day, the event surely felt like a success. The adversity with which we were faced was a disappointment but has also allowed the organizers to see where additional improvements could be made. As the event grows, the dream of the Wafer Family Foundation building a youth recreation center in East Burke becomes alive and the involvement of the local community strengthens. As always, aggressive improvements have been made for the 4th year of racing in East Burke Vermont which will be held on February 27th and 28th, 2010. As the organizers have learned over the past few years the production of a high quality dog race that meets the expectations of multiple interest groups within the sport is no easy task. Both Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain continue to increase their support of the event and have made additional improvements to the loop trail system and are in the process of acquiring new state of the art grooming equipment to deal with the unforeseen conditions we were faced with in 2009. The 4th annual Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash will again have a generous $10,000 purse, a bib-draw dinner on Friday night that is free for each registered musher, and expanded children’s activities at the race site. Although much of the racing format will remain the same this year, we have expanded our skijoring classes to include 3-dog and 2-dog skijoring on a lengthened 6.5 mile trail, separate 1 dog skijoring on a 4.5 mile trail, and a recreational class where mushers can use up to 2 dogs on the 4.5 mile trail. Lastly, in its 4th year of racing we are now feeling confident that we will be able to provide each musher with an estimated start time on Friday night so those racing later in the day can focus on their dogs in the morning rather than rushing to the site. Please visit sleddogdash.com for more information about the event and to learn about what the Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash is doing in our community. • Mike Previs and his wife Samantha own a limited class sprint kennel in Fairfax, VT. They have been sprint racing for 11 years and are very involved in the production of the Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash. They have been extensively mentored by the Samburgh family from Paul Smith’s New York who were involved with the organization of the historic ALPO race series.

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