The event is one of many featured at the Winter Carnival and will take place near Cascade Lake.
CASCADE, Idaho — The fourth annual Idaho Sled Dog Challenge will return Jan. 30 and run through Feb. 3.
The event is one of many featured at the McCall’s Winter Carnival and will take place at the Lake Cascade boat launch between the Lakeshore Bar & Grill and Van Wyck Campground.
The race is considered one of the most grueling mushing competitions in the world due to its topography, according to Dave Looney, one of the event’s lead volunteers and spokesperson.
“Mushers will tell you it’s a very, very atypical race,” Looney said. “Our drop is 36,000 feet, which is higher than the Iditarod. They call it a 500 mile race rolled into 300 miles. So the care of the dogs, the pace and the attention they have to give to the terrain is really important, because there are a lot of ups and downs. One musher once said that the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is like climbing Mount Everest – twice.
The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge (ISDC) is the only 300-mile Yukon Quest qualifier in the contiguous continental United States and one of three such events for the Iditarod in the lower 48. It is also considered one of the longest and most difficult sled dogs. races around the world.
The race is part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, which includes the Eagle Cap Extreme in Joseph, Oregon, and the Race to the Sky near Helena, Montana.
In addition to the 300-mile Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier, this year’s event also includes a 100-mile race for newcomers to the sport. The Junior race will not take place this year, the organizers have announced.
Event founder and organizer Jerry Wortley said this year’s mushers include top-notch Iditarod and Yukon Quest veterans, including 2020 ISDC 300-mile race champion Jessie Royer.
Teams from seven different states are competing in this year’s race, including East Mississippi’s premiere mushing team, Gregg and Bailey Vitello, a father and son duo from Milan, NH Other mushers hail from Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
Six Idahoans are on this year’s list: Jed Stephensen from Sandpoint, Jacob McCowan from Priest River, Jeneen Loeliger-Myers from McCall, Elizabeth Nevills from Middleton and a father-daughter duo, Bryce and Anna Mumford, from Preston.
Spectators can follow the race online by day and GPS sled trackers by night; or by visiting one of the five road-accessible checkpoints.
“Watching and cheering on the teams along the trail as they arrive at and depart from checkpoints and witnessing how the mushers take care of their dogs as they get some much-needed rest is an unforgettable experience,” said said Wortley.
Free races open to the public:
- Vet Visits and Meet the Mushers – January 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat launch between the Lakeshore Bar & Grill and Van Wyck Campground
- 300 mile start – January 31 at 1 p.m. at the Lac Cascade boat launch
- Start of the 100-mile race – February 1 at 1 p.m. at the Lac Cascade boat launch
- Arrival of the 100 mile race – early morning February 2 at the Wye Trailhead & Campground checkpoint near US Route 95 about 6 miles west of New Meadows (turn east on Tamarack View Dr. at the Wye Trailhead sign)
- Arrival of the 300 mile race – February 3 from early morning to noon at the Lac Cascade boat launch
There is no parking for the event at the Lake Cascade checkpoint, so organizers have arranged buses to transport spectators there from a nearby parking lot. Wortley says to plan to arrive early and catch a bus, which runs about every 20 minutes.
Volunteers are always needed and can register through the website.
Learn more about the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge from Idaho Today: