River Runner race adds new category

The River Runner 100 sled dog race contains the longest annual skijor race in the world. If that sounds daunting, it should. It is, after all, a two-day race spanning 130 miles.

The River Runner 100 sled dog race contains the longest annual skijor race in the world. If that sounds daunting, it should. It is, after all, a two-day race spanning 130 miles.

However, in order to boost skijorer numbers in this year’s race, organizers have added a new category, cutting the 130-mile skijor in half.

“We know that that’s a pretty long journey for a lot of skiers to do and we recognize that it’s not that accessible for some people,” said race executive Amil Dupuis-Rossi. “We kept the (130-mile) category, so we keep the title of the longest skijor race in the world. But we have also added a 65-mile category for skijorers only. So they don’t have to commit to running to Mendenhall and back.

“So we hope that appeals to the wider skiing community and makes the sport of skijoring more accessible.”

The new category may sound appealing to any who remember last year’s race. With 80-kilometre gusts of winds and minus 20 temperatures, only one of four skijorers completed the 130-mile journey. In fact, before the race even began, eight of the 22 teams, including mushers, withdrew.

“A lot of people scratched last year … the weather was just insane,” said Dupuis-Rossi. “But that didn’t have too much to do with creating another category. We just want to make racing and the sport more accessible to people so more dogs are getting out and more people are participating in what DPSAY (Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon) believes is a great sport.”

Since skijorers are required to use pulks in the race to carry essential equipment or an injured dog if necessary, DPSAY is conducting a free long distance skijor workshop this Saturday at the Mary Lake subdivision. It will be run by Gaetan Pierrard, who won the River Runner skijor race in 2010. It will include instruction on skate-skiing technique.

The River Runner will take place during the Rendezvous weekend. Teams take off after the Rendezvous sprint racers set off on Feb. 25 from Shipyards Park. The 130-mile category racers are expected back the next day. The first teams are expected to arrive by late morning.

This year the River Runner is directly affiliated with the Rendezvous races.

“The Yukon Quest will finish in Whitehorse about a week before so we’re hoping, perhaps, if those Quest mushers want to do a fun run for their dogs, they will sign up for the River Runner,” said Dupuis-Rossi. “They are going to be in Whitehorse anyway. Maybe it could be a training run before the Iditarod.”

The next DPSAY event will be the season’s third installment of the Yukon Brewing Twister race series. It will take place at Hans Gatt’s place in the Golden Horn area on Jan. 29.

More information on the River Runner, the skijor workshop and the Twister race can be found at http://dpsay.wordpress.com.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com