Snow hampered this year's Rail Trail 200 Dog Sled Race

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
January 26th, 2012

While extreme snow and difficult terrain hampered Grand Fork’s annual Rail Trail 200 Dog Sled Race — Friday, Jan. 20 to Sunday, Jan. 22 — two mushers came out on top.

Steve Mullen of Clearwater, B.C. walked away with the top spot in the 12-dog 200 mile (322 km) race, $3,000 and a trophy for his effort. The eight-dog 100 mile (161 km) race was won by Jillian Taylor of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. Her prize was $1,500 and a trophy.

The awards were presented at a banquet on Sunday, Jan. 22 in Grand Forks.

Although Mullen did not finish the race — he was the last man standing when the race marshal made the call to end the race on Sunday Jan. 22 at 2:16 a.m. due to poor weather conditions — he made it as far as Fiva check point 53 miles (85 km) from the finish line in Greenwood.

The four other mushers racing against Mullen dropped out of the race due to mental exhaustion caused by the challenging weather.

“They were mentally burned out and it was in the team’s best interest,” said Dr. Ruth Sims spokesperson for Rail Trail 200. “The musher can become a mental liability to the team and they were smart enough to know that.”

“We had a serious dump of snow, so it was a lot harder for the dogs,” said Sims.

Rail Trail is one of the earlier races of the dog sled season, said Sims. Couple that with the low snow fall in the prairies provinces and you get dogs that aren’t yet in top form because they haven’t had enough practice on the snow.

“Steve did a good job, especially with the snow,” said Sims. “Jillian looked really good coming in on the finish line — the dogs were wagging their tails and she was beaming.”

Taylor won the eight-dog 100 mile (161 km) race from Grand Forks to Beaverdell. This was the first time Taylor had raced in Grand Forks. She and her father, Steve Taylor, share a dog sledding passion and were racing against each other in Rail Trail.

Although they can’t control the weather, this year’s experiences have earned the Rail Trail organizers some insight into what may be done differently next year. Sims said they want to improve the trails and address issues like poor footing.

The Rail Trail 200 is a prequalifying race for both the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.

For more about Rail Trail 200, visit their official website at www.railtrail200.com.

Categories: GeneralSports