Team and Trail
Long distance sled dog races, or just trips by dogteam... My goal with this blog is simply to help support the history, spirit, passion and love for dog teams and the trails they run.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sled Dog Races and Economic Realities

Anchorage Daily News sports writer Craig Medred shares some astute observations about the sport of sled dog racing in an article about challenges facing the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race from Bethel to Aniak. While the piece focuses on a race official's embezzlement of funds, what Craig includes at the end of the article is perhaps the most compelling. He quotes Myron Angstman, the Kusko race chairman, and adds commentary:

"I would say all dog racing in Alaska faces a challenge,'' Angstman said. "The economy is a big issue.''

So is the ever-growing cost of participation. It costs tens of thousands to maintain a dog team and now, often as not, thousands more to enter a major race.

"There are a few people doing really well in doing dog mushing,'' Angstman said, and a lot of others struggling with the realization they've developed an extremely expensive hobby. Some are getting out.

"There is a drop off in participation in rural Alaska,'' he said. "The economics of it are certainly magnified in rural Alaska in some ways. Travel is becoming virtually prohibitive."

There has been some discussion of this growing dilemma on mushers' blogs and websites, and in forums frequented by race fans. Developments like the still-increasing Iditarod entry fee have sparked questions of where - financially - to draw the line. There was optimism that the Discovery Channels' new series, Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod would inspire renewed enthusiasm in mushers and fans alike, and to some extent that has happened. But the harsh economic realities of the sport are only beginning to be understood. And then there's another reality, less talked about, but perhaps of even more concern, which Angstman points out:

"... In our area, we don't have many young people taking part anymore. You need a feeder system. It is such a labor-intensive, commitment-intensive sport.''

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