GLENNALLEN, Alaska (KTUU) - A sled dog race known as the toughest 300 miles in Alaska kicked off Saturday in downtown Glennallen. The race is run on the road system and uses historic roadhouses and campgrounds as checkpoints, including the recently destroyed Mendeltna Creek Lodge.
43 teams started the race Saturday morning including Yukon Quest winner Allen Moore, Knik 200 champion Nic Petit and Copper Basin 300 reigning champion, 28-year-old Ryne Olson. The teams are competing for a $20,000 purse that pays cash to the first five finishers. The winner will take home $7,000.
Petit and Moore arrived first into the race's third checkpoint at Sourdough Campground around 1:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Both mushers are taking their mandatory six-hour layover before setting off for the fourth checkpoint, Mendeltna Creek Lodge. Eight to ten inches of fresh snowfall is said to be slowing down the trail dramatically and will likely play a factor in the later stages of the race.
Jason Severs, the race manager, says the Copper Basin 300 is known to be the toughest 300 miles in Alaska because of its potential to have a “little bit of everything in it.” Temperatures can drop to -40F or -50F and Severs says a race was cancelled when the mercury hit -60F. If you survive the cold, Severs says two feet of fresh snow is known to fall at one time in the mountains. You need to be able to drive your team over a 4,085 foot high peak known as “The Hump” before crossing creeks and rivers. Severs says the region had seen snow in December that packed down, leading to a trail that should be hard and fast. Snow was forecast Saturday evening meaning the trail may slow down.
The last checkpoint in the race is Mendeltna Creek Lodge, located just off the Glenn Hwy on the way to Glennallen from Anchorage. Russ and Mabel Wimmer lost their home and business Dec. 10 after a fire that appears to have started in rear of the building. Despite the loss, some cabins survived and the Wimmers are prepared to host all the mushers who make it that far. “This year it’s going to be a little more exciting because we’re going to improvise everything,” says Mabel Wimmer.
An area has been cleared for the Wimmers to park all the teams and the community is donating food and cookies for the mushers. Mabel says that people are going to bring heated tents for cookies and soup and there will be cabins for mushers to get warm before the home-stretch to Glennallen.