CASCADE, Idaho — A popular event is making its return this winter. The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge kicks off in the West Central Mountains on January 30.
COVID-19 put the race on hiatus last year but the Yukon Quest Qualifier will be back soon featuring world-class mushers taking on either the 300-mile race or a 100-mile version for those newer to the sport.
Six Idahoans are on the roster this year, Jed Stephensen from Sandpoint and Jacob McCowan from Priest River registered for the 300-mile race. Jeneen Loeliger-Myers from McCall, Bryce and Anna Mumford from Preston and Elizabeth Nevills from Middleton are competing in the 100-mile event.
Organizers say the race is operating under special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and it has been maxed out with 25 mushers and dog teams. Thirteen will compete in the 300-mile race and 12 will compete on the 100-mile course.
Four are on the waitlist for the 100-mile event in case any teams drop out before the races begin.
Most events this year will be staged in Cascade at the Lake Cascade boat ramp. The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is part of the Rocky Mountain Trip Crown.
Spectators and follow the race online day and night via GPS sled trackers or by visiting five road-accessible checkpoints, according to a news release. The race events that are open to the public and free include:
- Vet checks and meet the mushers -- Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp between Lakeshore Bar & Grill and the Van Wyck Campground
- 300-mile start -- Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp
- 100-mile race start -- Feb. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp
- 100-mile race finish -- early morning Feb. 2 at the Wye Trailhead & Campground checkpoint off U.S. Route 95 about 6 miles west of New Meadows (turn east on Tamarack View Dr. at the Wye Trailhead sign)
- 300-mile race finish -- Feb. 3 from early morning to midday at the Lake Cascade boat ramp
Organizers say there is no event parking at the race starting line but there will be busses to shuttle spectators there from a nearby parking area. Attendees should plan to arrive early and catch a bus at Davis Ranch off ID-55 at 19 Warm Lake Rd., Cascade, ID 83611.
Buses will run about every 20 minutes during the event. They will shuttle spectators to the Lake Cascade checkpoint from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on January 30 and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. January 31 through February 1.
Buses will return spectators to the parking lot from 2 to 4 p.m. on all three days.
Organizers say optimal times for watching mushers and their sled dogs arrive and depart the other checkpoints include:
- Little Ski Hill -- early to mid-morning Feb. 1; early to mid-morning Feb. 2
- Platt Warming Hut -- early afternoon to late evening Feb. 1
- Wye Trailhead & Campground -- early to late morning Feb. 1 for the 100-mile race finish; early morning to early afternoon Feb. 2 for the 300-mile race check-in
- Smiths Ferry -- midday to late evening Feb. 2
For more information including estimated checkpoint times and locations, click here.