Mushers hit dry trails with winter season on the horizon

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - More than 60 racers took to the trails for the Alaska Dryland Dog Works Derby over the weekend.

There were four racing categories: single and double dog bikejor, four dog rig, and a relay. They races all took place on a two-mile dry land course.

While this race isn’t your average mushing venue, it is an International Sled Dog Racing Association-sanctioned event. Robert Forto with the Chugiak Dog Mushing Association says the event is the pioneering competition for this type of racing in the state.

"Big picture, I think it's great for the sport. It's growing,” Forto said. “We started this race originally because we weren't getting a lot of snow early in the season."

Some notable names even took part in this weekend's competition, including Knik twin-mushing duo Kristy and Anna Berington. The twins started intense training with their dogs about six weeks ago.

"Yeah, we run long distance races, so doing two miles is extremely short and we're training for Iditarod,” Kristy said. “Right now, we're doing 20-mile runs so these guys (the dogs) are thinking, ‘This is fast, but just a breeze to do,' and a lot of fun. We all have a lot of fun."

The Berington sisters have their first winter race in December, the Alpine Creek Excursion. Forto says mushers in Fairbanks and Willow are considering holding their own versions of the dry land event.