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Middleton woman trains for the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge

Posted at 3:43 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 17:43:15-05

MIDDLETON, Idaho — The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge returns to the McCall Winter Carnival this year as teams will take on the daunting 300-mile challenge in the Idaho backcountry.

Elizabeth Nevills first got introduced to sled dog racing at the carnival when she was 14-years-old, now she has a team of her own made up mainly of Alaskan huskies and some of her friend's dogs round out the team.

"We spend a lot of time outdoors I know each of their personalities and they are all different," said Nevills. "Aurora here is just a two-year-old and is full of play and goofiness, Mars is going on six and he’s a little more serious so you have to know all of them and they become your best friends."

It was quite the scene to watch how excited the dogs became when Elizabeth started leading them to the line because these dogs love to run.

"We have to put the dogs into two-wheel drive because they are so much stronger than me even at just 45 pounds," said Nevills. "So when I bring them out to the line I’ll pull up on the collars and they walk on two feet dragging me to their spot on the dog line because they want to go so bad, but if I let them use all four feet then I’m on the ground."

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is a qualifier for the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, but it is also part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown which includes Oregon's Eagle Cap Extreme and Montana's Race to the Sky.

Nevills trains north of Middleton on some BLM land which is both positive and negative, she told us Snowmageddon was the only year there was enough snow to run a sled, instead, she trails behind the team in an ATV because the closest place to take the dogs is hours away.

"The dogs get really used to the hard ground so when we do finally get on a sled and on the snow they get super excited because they love the cold, they love eating the snow, they love rolling around in it and they love going fast on a sled because it weighs a lot less than an ATV," said Nevills.

That's one of the reasons Elizabeth is so happy to see the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge return to the McCall Winter Carnival after it was canceled a year ago because of the pandemic.

"I love hearing the snow fall off of the trees, there is no noise and everyone is just grinning and smiling and having a good time," said Nevills. "But I also love having the races it brings together a community that loves and cares for their dogs."

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge begins on January 31, the next day there will be a 100-mile race for teenagers ages 14-17 and the McCall Winter Carnival begins on January 28.