Fur Rondy rookies rule at 2024 Open World Championship sled dog races

Led by Remy Coste, a French national who’s based in Sweden, this year’s class of rookies is both talented and experienced.

Growing up in a mushing family, Charlie Conner heard plenty of tales around the dinner table about the legends of sled dog racing in Alaska.

Conner, who operates a multi-generational kennel in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, decided his time to experience racing in the state had finally arrived.

He is among six rookies racing in this year’s Open World Championship Sled Dog Races, a class filled with talent and experience.

“I’ve been thinking about coming to this race since I was a kid,” he said. “But about seven or eight years ago, I actually started a separate bank account and started saving money, every paycheck. So it’s been a long time coming.”

The quality of mushing from the rookies was evident during the first two days of action as first-timers claimed three of the top five spots heading into Sunday’s final day of racing.

“When I look at it, you have six people with many, many decades of experience in this sport,” said Jake Robinson, who finished in fifth on Friday. “We’ve all decided that this is the place we need to be. It is hands down the most talented rookie field probably since the first running of the race.”

Like Conner, Robinson said racing the Open World Championships has been a bucket-list item for him.

“This is one of the oldest, most prestigious, most famous sled dog races in the sport,” he said. “So to be here, down on the avenue like I’ve been dreaming about for the last 20 years, is really an honor.”


It was a lack of snow that motivated Anny Malo to travel to the Last Frontier to race this weekend.

Malo said generally her team would be racing in Manitoba at some longstanding championships in that province.

But a dearth of snow across much of the center of North America has caused races to be canceled, from the UP200 in Michigan to Beargrease in Minnesota and beyond.

Malo said the urban setting of much of the course is quite different from what she’s used to, but the Quebec-based musher with nearly three decades of experience was up to the task. She finished Friday’s race in third and, after posting the fastest time Saturday, she’ll start the final day of racing in second place.

“I always enter the race with the goal to win but I’m here to have fun with my dogs and see what they’re capable of,” she said. “There’s good competition so we have to work hard.”

Blayne “Buddy” Streeper, tied with legend George Attla for the most titles in history in the event with 10, found himself in a rare position — chasing a leader.

Streeper said he had a good run Friday, but still trailed leader Remy Coste. Coste, also a rookie, dusted the competition with a time of 1:23:47, a full five minutes ahead of Streeper, who sat in second entering Saturday.

“In a dog race, five seconds is a big (deficit),” Streeper said. “Five minutes is a different ballgame.”

Coste, a French national who mushes out of Sweden, said he came to Alaska to continue his evolution as a musher.

“At the end of the season we felt we wanted a new challenge,” he said. “Try to learn more, try to keep improving, and see something else.”

Coste won the 2024 Pedigree Stage Stop earlier this month in Wyoming, where Malo came in second. From there, Coste headed north and ran the Gold Run last weekend in Fairbanks. He said his dogs are trained and handled in more of a European style. His dog team is virtually silent in the lead-up to racing, and he has a no-holds-barred racing strategy that emphasizes speed early and often.

“Remy is going to take off fast,” Conner said. “Nobody runs like that here in North America. He’ll run a lot differently and it’ll add a lot of interest.”


Coste’s pace slowed on Saturday as he posted the fourth fastest time but still held a 54-second lead over Malo. Streeper sits in third, 4:05 off the leader’s pace.

Streeper is aiming for an 11th title, which would put him alone at the top in the Open World Championship record books. He anticipated the tough competition this year and said he invested in some top-quality handlers to work with his dogs at his Fort Nelson, B.C., during his racing schedule this winter.

“I’ve got good people at home, building a team for next year,” he said. “So even if I don’t do it this year, I’m planning on coming back next year stronger.”

[Get the full Fur Rendezvous experience with sled dog races, Running of the Reindeer and more]

Fairbanks rookie Sean de Wolski has been mushing for 15 years and arrived in Alaska three years ago after making multiple trips to backpack and packraft in the Brooks Range. After handling for Dave Turner at the Open World Championship, de Wolski made a point to return as a musher.

Many of his dogs are trained for mid-distance, so he had no illusions of finishing high. He ended the first day in last place in the 13-team field but had a stronger run Saturday, finishing 10th.


“I’d like to do well but my dogs are mid-distance trained,” he said. “I’m not worried about not finishing but I’m not going to be putting up any land-speed records.”

Conner, too, didn’t anticipate challenging the leaders, joking: “I feel like I’m going to be in the top 13, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

“I’m trying to learn as much as possible,” he said. “We’re in this to learn and have fun and share the lifestyle with our family and our dogs. This is an incredible trail and amazing mushers. And you’re in Alaska. This is the place to be right now.”

Open World Championship Sled Dog Races

Overall results through 2 days

1. Remy Coste, Lycksele, Sweden, 3:02:59 (Day 1: 1st place 1:23:47; Day 2: 4th place 1:39:12) ; 2. Anny Malo, St.-Zenon, Quebec, 3:03:53 (Day 1: 3rd place 1:29:09; Day 2: 1st place 1:34:44); 3. Blayne Streeper, Fort Nelson, BC, 3:07:04 (Day 1: 2nd place 1:28:51; Day 2: 2nd place 1:38:13); 4. Andy Huetten, Nenana, 3:12:38 (Day 1: 6th place 1:34:18; Day 2: 3rd place 1:38:20); 5. Jake Robinson, Bemidji, Minnesota, 3:13:20 (Day 1: 5th place 1:33:11; Day 2: 5th place 1:40:09); 6. Greg Taylor, Fairbanks, 3:18:11 (Day 1: 4th place, 1:32:40; Day 2: 9th place 1:45:31); 7. Jess Moore, Bondurant, Wyoming, 3:18:59 (Day 1: 11th place, 1:38:36; Day 2: 6th place 1:40:23); 8. Marvin B. Kokrine, North Pole, 3:20:10 (Day 1: 9th place 1:37:10; Day 2: 7th place 1:43:00); 9. Andrea Bond, Salcha, 3:21:59 (Day 1: 10th place, 1:37:23; Day 2: 8th place 1:44:36); 10. Michael Tetzner, Burg, Germany, 3:29:14 (Day 1: 7th place, 1:35:24; Day 2: 12th place 1:53:50); 11. Sean de Wolski, Fairbanks, 3:30:21 (Day 1: 13th place 1:43:26; Day 2: 10th place 1:46:55); 12. Charlie Conner, Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, 3:36:17 (Day 1: 12th place, 1:43:10; Day 2: 11th place 1:53:07); 13. Frank Haberman, Clam Gulch, 3:47:55 (Day 1: 8th place, 1:37:05; Day 2: 13th place 2:10:50).

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.