For the second year in a row, contenders in the Canadian Challenge Dog Sled Race will depart from Elk Ridge rather than Prince Albert.
Race President Stefaan De Marie said a lack of qualified volunteers to safely control road crossings meant the start of the Feb. 20 race was moved further north to Elk Ridge. Last year's competition also started from Elk Ridge due to a lack of snow around the city.
“In the best interest of mushers and dogs, we decided to start at Elk Ridge,” De Marie said. “During the February break there’s a lot of people staying there, and we have lots of people coming to the start line.”
While it’s too late to volunteer in Prince Albert, De Marie said volunteers are still needed to help out in the La Ronge area. He said there are still spots open to work various checkpoints, which involves recording arrival and departure times as well as monitoring the well-being of the dogs.
De Marie said the biggest challenge currently faced by organizers in ensuring the trail is in a good condition for mushers. There has already been some rerouting south of La Ronge, he said, and there’s a chance the trail will change north of there as well.
“We are contemplating about rerouting it to Stanley Mission and Grandmother’s Bay and back to Stanley Mission, instead of La Ronge to Grandmother’s Bay,” De Marie said, adding some part of the existing trail are slushy.
Prince Albert Winter Festival President Barry Mihilewicz said he learned about the route change last month. While the other festival events will still go ahead as planned, Mililewicz said there are many residents of Prince Albert who enjoy watching the start of the race.
“The idea of dog sled racing is very much a winter festival thing,” Mihilewicz said. “In the past, they got pretty good crowds."
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