Mushing into a new racing season

By Brady Bateman
January 11, 2019 - 11:48am Updated: January 11, 2019 - 1:00pm

While most people find themselves lamenting the winter season and the inevitable snow it entails, one group of people find themselves preparing for their favourite time of the year.

Kode Sinclair, a director with the Prince Albert Winter Festival, told paNOW he and his group of 55 sledding dogs are gearing up for a busy racing season.

“We usually start training around the end of October,” Sinclair said. “It’s kind of like training for a marathon, we start small and gradually work our way up to greater distances.”

Sinclair is a third-generation dog musher, with his grandfather and mother also running their own sled teams. He currently operates Koyode Kennels, where he and his dogs prepare for the racing season.

Sled-dog races have been a part of the Prince Albert Winter Festival since its inception. The Prince Albert Winter Festival Society is the biggest Winter Festival in Western Canada. Established in 1964, it hosts the traditional King Trapper Competition, Sled Dog Championship Races, Beerd Derby and a variety of family friendly events.

“Most races you go to there is a six-dog, a four-dog, and a 10-dog race. The six-dog and the 10-dog you have to be 16 years or older,” Sinclair said. “Generally the races I compete in, like the winter festival, are sprint races, so we don’t go much further than 20 miles, and our teams are averaging about 20 miles per hour in these races.”

Sinclair noted he doesn’t have a training regimen of his own, but rather he focuses on ensuring the dogs are always in peak physical condition, while also ensuring their safety.

“These dogs love their job, it’s really what they live for,” Sinclair said. “This is what they live and breathe. The only thing that some of them might like more is feeding time. From the time their puppies all they want to do is run.”

Safety is paramount in the dog-sledding world, where one accident could spell disaster for both the musher and their canine counterparts.

According to Sinclair, the biggest danger he faces is being knocked off his sled and sustaining an injury while in the bush, although he added the dogs will always return home to wait for him.

“If you’re training 17 miles out in the bush and you fall off it can be pretty dangerous, but we don’t run the dogs when it’s ridiculously cold so we don’t really have to worry about freezing,” he said. “Any weather that’s too cold to go outside, around the -40 Celsius mark, we won’t run the dogs.”

Sinclair added the Prince Albert Winter Festival dog race is the longest running dog-sled race in Western Canada, and winning carries a significant amount of recognition.

“It’s a tough 10-dog race to win, but that is my goal,” Sinclair said. “Not because of the money or anything like that that comes with winning the race, but being able to say you won the Prince Albert Winter Festival carries a lot of weight.”

The annual sled-dog races take place on Feb. 23 and 24, with a variety of races taking place throughout the competition.

“I just hope to see lots of spectators out there," Sinclair said. “That’s always really nice, to have people out there watching.”

 

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