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The dog sled racing season unofficially got underway with the seventh annual Deh Gah Christmas Sled Dog Races.

Anthony Beck rounds a corner during the first day of races. photo courtesy of Ron Bonnetrouge

The races took place over the Dec. 15 weekend and saw 31 different teams from across the territory, Alberta and British Columbia, making the largest competition in the history of the event, said race organizer Susan Fleck.

“I think partly because it’s the first race of the season and mushers are just keen to try out dogs and see how the training is going,” said Fleck. “For the last seven years this race has kind of opened up the NWT mushing season.”

The weekend began on Saturday with a 14 mile race that took place over two days. The course ran along the Fort Providence Access Road and Highway 3. The race was run in two stages with teams doing a second lap a day later. After everything was said and done Buddy Streeper from Fort Nelson, B.C. took home the top prize, while Matthew Poitras from Fort Smith was the top NWT racer coming in third with a time of one hour and 30 minutes.

“Its a wonderful race for spectators, they can see the dogs the entire way so they start at the Snowshoe Inn parking lot and then they go out on the right of way to the highway, they cross the access road into Fort Providence and then they go north towards Yellowknife,” said Fleck. “You can see the dogs the whole way. People follow in their cars and watch the races.”

The final day of the event got started with the six dog race. This event was run in heats rather than a mass start. After racing for seven miles the top six teams were separated by a mere 35 seconds. Mel Rasmudssen of Fort Providence came in first with a time of 22 minutes and 15 seconds while Eric Beck of Fort Resolution came in sixth with 22 minutes and 50 seconds.

Fleck placed second in the race.

“It’s still exciting because in one minute dogs can catch up to other teams and pass, the loop is at big river so you’re still going to have head on passing,” she said.

Race season will now be put on hold until the new year with the next competition taking place with teams of 12 dogs running between Hay River and Enterprise in January.

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