Mushers hit the trails

Thursday, January 5, 2017 - 13:40
Better snow than last has tails a'wagging
  • Musher Debora Summers heads out on the trails at Beach Lake during a training run on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.

Howling sled dogs created a welcome din over the weekend at the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association’s Beach Lake Trails, where there’s finally enough snow to set a hook.

“Every single inch counts,” CDMA vice president Kourosh Partow said in an interview Friday, Dec. 30, one day after the trails were dusted with about three inches of fresh snow.

The trails are now closed to ATV use and only open to mushers using dogsleds.

That’s good news, especially after several low-snow winters in a row.

“It’s a start,” Partow said.

The association was able to hold its first event of the season on Dec. 28, with 11 junior mushers and 14 seniors turning out for races. Amanda Hansen won the 3-dog, 2-mile race in 6 minutes, 32 seconds and junior Mira Franz won the 2-dog, 2-mile race in 8:30.

“The night race is usually kind of a fun run before the season,” Partow said.
It proved to be just that.

“We had a lot of new faces, and that’s always the fun part,” he said.

Partow said the Beach Lake trails have been groomed, and both distance and sprint teams are now able to utilize them. Still, he’d like to see more snow.

“They’re still kinda bumpy,” he said.

On Friday, musher Debora Summers was one of several mushers who drove dog teams out to Beach Lake for a run. Summers said her dogs were “raring to go” test out the fresh snow.

The mushers are stoked, too.

“We’re all pretty excited” said Summers, who serves on the CDMA board. “The last three years have just been a disaster.”

Mushers miss getting out on the trails as well as the camaraderie of the people and families who participate in the sport.

“The dog mushing community is a cool group of people,” she said.

Summers and her family got into mushing when her daughter decided she wanted a sled dog for Christmas. When the girl received a stuffed husky instead, it did not go over well.

“She was so mad at us,” Summers recalled while unloading her dogs from her pick-up truck Friday.

Real sled dogs soon followed, and before long the family had a sprint dog team.

“Our whole family got into it that way,” she said.

Summers said mushing gave her children confidence and taught them the value of hard work. Being alone with a dog team, she said, will teach those lessons in a hurry.

“Talk about responsibility,” she said.

Summers’ kids are now out of the house, but she’s still mushing. She said the sport is a great way for people – especially animal lovers – to embrace the long, dark, cold Alaska winters.

“If you live in Alaska you have to love winter sports,” she said.

Partow agreed the sport is ideal for families, including beginners.

“It’s a fun family activity with lots of kids involved,” he said.

The trails at Beach Lake are particularly welcoming due to the laid back and friendly nature of those who share them.

“Ours is more of a low key, kind of rural set-up, and that’s the fun part of it,” he said.

The CDMA’s next event, the Clunie Lake Night Race, is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. The group’s biggest event of the season is the Eagle River Classic, a two-day race series set for Feb. 4 and 5.

Partow said anyone interested in mushing is welcome to check out the group’s Facebook page or find them online at There, the association posts race results, schedules, club news, trail reports and other information.

“We love to have new members, even if they have one dog, two dogs, three dogs,” he said. “Just come and try it.”

CDMA JR/SR Night Races

Wednesday, Dec. 28
Beach Lake Trails

3-dog, 2-mile
1. Amanda Hansen (Sr.) 6 minutes, 32 seconds; 2. Morgan Summers (Sr.), 6:36; 3. Alea Robinson (Sr.), 6:45; 4. Canzada Maruskie (Jr.), 6:51; 5. Kris Rasey (Sr.), 6:59; 6. Eric Noble (Sr.), 7:30; 7. Zachary Maruskie (Jr.), 7:41; 8. Katie Diets (Jr.), 8:02; 9. Ben Schneider (Sr.), 8:18; 10. Nina Schwinghammer (Sr.), 8:19; 11. Jim Cantor (Sr.), 9:20; 12. Coral Mercer (jr.), 9:28; 13. Lois Rockcastle (Sr.), 9:36; 14. Leo Schneider (Jr.), 9:43; 15. Rick Tarpey (Sr.), 10:16; 16. Jerry Cosgrave (Sr.), 10:55; 17. Stacie Tarpey (Sr.), 10:57; 18. Alisa Albrecht (Sr.), 11:41; 19. Alexandra Icet (Sr.), 12:18.

2-dog, 2-mile
1. Mira Franz (Jr.), 8:30; 2. Bair Mercer (Jr.), 8:39; 3. Sydney Pierce (Jr.), 9:21; 4. Rox Mercer (Jr.), 10:41; 5. Tietje Pavedglio (Jr.) 11:25; 6. Mia Maruskie (Jr.), 20:51.

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