Brent Sass earns his first win in the Copper Basin 300 sled dog race

Eureka musher Brent Sass earned his first Copper Basin 300 victory this week in Glennallen after notching two consecutive second-place finishes in prior years.

He crossed the finish line Monday in Glennallen after two days, four hours and 11 minutes of racing in the challenging middle-distance race.

It was around minus 4 degrees when Sass pulled up to the finish line in front of the Old Paths Baptist church with 10 dogs in harness Monday afternoon. Earlier in the race, temperatures as low as minus 52 degrees were reported at the Sourdough checkpoint near the Gulkana River early Sunday morning.

“This is just the beginning of a very big season ahead!” Sass wrote on his kennel’s Facebook page. He’d previously come in second in 2019 and 2020 but didn’t run the Copper Basin 300 last year.

Huge Huge Huge thanks to my Buddy Fernando for saving the day last minute and totally killing it as our handler for the...

Posted by Wild and Free Mushing on Monday, January 10, 2022

In second place this year was 2018 Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, followed by Matt Hall, Paige Drobny and Jacob Witkop.

Nineteen mushers started the 281-mile route. As of Tuesday, 11 finished, two were still running, and six had scratched, including the race’s 1999 winner and four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser.

The last four Copper Basin races were all won by Girdwood musher Nicolas Petit, who did not compete this year.

The Copper Basin 300 is one of the first competitive mid-distance sled dog races in Alaska’s season, with some of the same mushers slated to run the Kuskokwim 300 later in January, the Yukon Quest in February, the Iditarod in March and the Kobuk 440 in early April.

Sass is signed up for this year’s Yukon Quest, which organizers announced will be run on a truncated trail from Tok to Fairbanks because of COVID-19 restrictions that complicate the border crossing with Canada.

The Iditarod is planning on running its traditional route to Nome this year after pandemic concerns in 2021 forced the race to take the unprecedented step of running as an out-and back that started and finished in Willow. The 2022 race is imposing strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements for participants.