Dog teams hit the trail for Twister series opener

The first sled dog race of the season isn’t so much about competition; it’s about experimentation.

The first sled dog race of the season isn’t so much about competition; it’s about experimentation.

“It’s nice to practice some stuff — passing, trying new dogs out, getting the team together,” said Fox Lake’s Armin Johnson. “Right now it’s preliminary: putting the team together, figuring out where the dogs go, where they’re happy … trying new leaders out.”

For the second year in a row Johnson started the season with a win. The 35-year-old placed first at the Twister Race Series season opener on Sunday at the Copper Haul Road trails off Fish Lake Road in Whitehorse.

Johnson, who also won last season’s opening race held by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon (DPSAY), finished the 10-mile (16-kilometre) out-and-back course with a time of 37 minutes and one second.

“They were amazing trails out here. Thanks to Harris (Cox) with the Klondike Snowmobile Association, he groomed it yesterday for the dog the race. It’s nice for another club in town to support DPSAY,” said Johnson.

Whitehorse’s Marine Gastard placed second in the sled category at 40 minutes even and Fabian Schmidt claimed third at 52:11.

It was a tight finish for the fourth place spot with Eliza Stunth beating Claudia Wickert by a second with a time of 52:52.

Golden Horn’s Cynthia Corriveau was the top skijorer on the day, finishing in 47:49. Whitehorse’s Adam Robinson came second at 53:19.

Sunday’s event also featured an impromptu youth/novice race. Fox Lake’s Elan Johnson finished the roughly 100-metre course in 19 seconds, ahead of Nola Gastard (21 seconds) and Sydney Stewart (52 seconds).

Introducing kids to dog mushing seems to be a goal for the recently resurrected Yukon Dog Mushers Association (YDMA).

The YDMA, which predates DPSAY but has been inactive for the last decade, will host a Learn to be a Musher family event this Saturday at the old YDMA trails in the Ibex Valley. The event is for four- to 12-year-olds and will run 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a sign on the Alaska Highway to help people find it.

“We’re trying to get kids into the sport because there’s a lot of mushing going on,” said Armin, president of the YDMA. “They’re all living up here in Whitehorse and it’s a chance to do something that’s a northern experience.

“Part of it is to bring exposure to the dog track out there because those are really nice dog trails.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com