Mushers gear up for the season

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 20:00
Lots of snow at Beach Lake — but more wouldn’t hurt
Mushers — and their dogs — have been taking advantage of the early snowfall at the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association trails at Beach Lake.

Several dumps of early season snow have enabled mushers to hit the trials running so far this winter.

“This is way earlier than the first run usually is,” said veteran musher Bruce Headle of Chugiak after hitting the two-mile loop at Beach Lake for the first time this winter with a four-dog team of Siberian huskies on Nov. 12.

Although the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association’s trail system has been covered in a decent blanket of snow for a couple weeks now, CDMA president Val Jokela said more snow is still needed in order for mushers to get a good snow hook set to stop their teams.

“Most folks are still training with a cart or four-wheeler,” she said.

Mushers last week reported having to slog through soft, ungroomed trails.

“There’s still not enough snow yet on the four-, six- and eight-[mile],” loops, Headle said.

Jokela said the club’s first races of the season are tentatively planned for Nov. 26 and 27. But the annual “Cheechako” races are designed for beginning mushers, and the CDMA planned to make a final determination on the status of the races during its board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Mushers can check the group’s website ( or call Jokela at 748-5762 for up-to-date information.

The Cheechako races are open only to mushers who have never raced before. Because of that, Jokela said she and the board want to make sure they’re as safe as possible for newcomers to handle.

“We have had a lot of snow, but we’ll still have to make a determination if we can actually go forward,” she said.

Because the races are for mushers new to the sport, Jokela said safety is the top priority.

“We want to make sure they have full control of their team,” she said.

If the trails are able to safely accommodate mushers and their teams, Jokela said one- and two-dog children’s races will be held Saturday, Nov. 26, with adults (three-dog max) heading out on Sunday.

Even if the races can’t go forward, mushers have been pleased with how things are shaping up at Beach Lake, where dog teams have been out on the trails for a couple weeks now.

“It beats the heck out of not running,” Headle said.


Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]

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