Shorter winters have led to a shorter Anchorage dog-mushing season

The howling and barking intensified as the clock ticked closer to the start of the Alaska Sled Dog and Racing Association championships Sunday afternoon.

The annual competition was the first of the season at Tozier Track for mushers and dogs because poor weather and trail conditions canceled two races scheduled in January. Race marshal Janet Clarke said the races have become few and far between in recent years because the warmer winters and less snow.

“The fact is is that 35 years ago, you knew that you’d be racing in Montana Creek in November and Chugiak in December and have two months right here and you had a full season of racing. Now, we are grateful for one season race and that is so hard.”

January was the first time Anchorage saw below average monthly temperatures in 22 consecutive months. Last year was the warmest year on record in the city.

Clarke said she hopes rising temperatures don’t complicate the upcoming Fur Rendezvous sled dog race at the end of the month, but said they want to race no matter what.

“I just don’t think we can say, ‘well, it’s not perfect so we’re not going to put on a race.' We don’t have that option at all,” she said.

“Mushing culture is so integral to our state and I do not want to see that go away.”