Alaska Dog Mushers Association prepares for an unusual season, concluding with the Open North American Championship

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 7:35 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Dog mushing season is officially here as trails are groomed and sign-up deadlines pass. The Alaska Dog Mushers Association (ADMA), based out of Fairbanks, has been meeting regularly in preparation for their upcoming season, which commences with Preliminary Race #1 January 3 at Mushers Hall.

“Right now, we are going as if nothing is wrong,” said ADMA President Todd Schallock. “The board has been meeting to discuss various subjects and the question always comes up, ‘what are we going to do about COVID?’ It all depends on the situation at the time.”

Some of the precautionary measures ADMA is considering to reduce the spread of COVID and ensure a season is closing the Mushers Hall during races, as well as not having spectators or food vendors at the events. Preliminary Races #2 and #3 are scheduled for January 17 and January 31 respectively. Featured races such as the Midnight Sun Gold Run (February 20-21) and the Annamaet Limited North American Championship (March 12-15) are also in the works. As ADMA preps for the upcoming season, training is underway for dogs and mushers.

“Most dog mushers are like, ‘we are going to race,’” said Schallock of the musher’s mentality heading into the unusual season. “Whether it is a business or a family deal, when they go out and train dogs every day and they’re out playing with the dogs, the family is there. It would be no different if they were at the track, so most mushers are ready to go.”

Schallock added that there may be a decrease in participants due to the Canadian-border closure and general concern of the pandemic.

“If we feel the race is safe enough to put on, we will race. If the teams don’t come up from the outside, we will still have a North American. If we can race, we are going to race.” he said.

The “Granddaddy of them All”, the Open North American Championship (ONAC), was canceled on March 18, just two days before the 75th edition of the historic sled dog race was set to begin. This year, the ONAC is scheduled for March 19-22.

“The Open North America is the greatest dog race in the world, its the ‘granddaddy of them all,” Schallock said. “Nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder, but there was a time when thousands and thousands of people would show up. These trails they’ve been around since 1948, it’s a very big part of our community.”

More information about the Alaska Dog Mushers Association can be found on their website.

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