Local mushers frozen out

Icy trails force CDMA to cancel races


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Groomers Ron Kilian (front sled) and Hanne Kelliher (trailing) head out onto the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association trails on Sunday, Jan. 6. A lack of snowfall this season has caused the CDMA to cancel several races, though Kilian said the trails are in okay shape for training dogs in front of four-wheelers.

MATT TUNSETH

What a difference a year makes.

Last winter, local mushers were raving about ideal conditions on local trails, where massive amounts of snow were making for one of the best winters in memory. This year? Not snow much.

“We’d be doing better if we had some snow,” said Val Jokela, president of the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association.

Over at the CDMA’s trails at Beach Lake, early-season snows did allow for a base on the trails. But a recent thaw and subsequent freeze has left them unfit for sled travel.

“People can go ahead and go back to four-wheelers,” she said.

The CDMA hasn’t been able to hold a race yet this winter, and the association’s signature race, the Eagle River Classic, is the latest casualty. Jokela said the CDMA board decided Tuesday, Jan. 8 that the race — originally scheduled for this weekend — would be called off due to the conditions. Jokela said Wednesday morning that the board will continue evaluating conditions to decide if future events will also be cancelled.

Trail groomer Ron Kilian said Sunday, Jan. 6 some of the association’s trails are okay for training dogs behind a four-wheeler.

“Out to about eight-mile it’s not too bad,” he said before heading out to make a grooming run over rock-hard, icy trails.

Jokela said the trails need more than just a light dusting of snow to become race-ready.

“It’s pretty much turned into an ice rink,” Jokela said.

The only thing mushers can do, she said, is be patient.

“Everybody’s just kind of going, ‘come on, snow,’” she said.

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