For the fourth time in five years, the purse of the richest middle-distance sled dog race in the world is increasing.
Organizers of the Kuskokwim 300 that starts and ends in Bethel have announced that next year's purse will be $150,000, up from this year's record of $130,000 due to the growth in sponsorships.
Other prominent middle distance races offer purses well under $100,000. For instance, the popular Copper Basin 300 that starts in the Glennallen area offered a purse of $18,950 this year.
The two companion races taking place the same weekend as the Kuskokwim 300 — the Bogus Creek 150 and Akiak Dash — will also see fatter purses. In addition, the race committee funds the purses for three local races that take place over the course of the winter and are aimed at Yukon-Kuskokwim mushers.
"We've been able to show the community that we're doing things for local mushers," said K300 race manager Zach Fansler. "We're not raising a lot of money on the Delta and sending it all out of the community."
Bethel's own Pete Kaiser earned his second straight K300 victory last month, collecting $25,000. Other Yukon-Kuskokwim mushers with strong finishes included Richie Diehl of Aniak in fourth and Mike Williams Jr. of Akiak in 10th.
"There's a whole new generation of mushers taking over – all in their 20s and 30s," Fansler said. "We've had somebody from the Delta in the top five the last six or seven years.
"People want to see that kind of success. It looks good for the Delta. (Local mushers) are racing the best head to head and beating them. People want to be part of a winning team."
Free backcountry safety courses offered
After a winter of several avalanche deaths, the Alaska Avalanche Information Center is offering free courses in backcountry safety, sponsored by the Alaska State Troopers.
"Imagine standing between two mountain slopes blanketed in deep powder and trying to decide which way to ride or ski," the organization's press release begins. "Would you know what to look for? Would you have the gear, the skill, the experience needed to make informed decisions that allowed you to have a great time riding and come home with all your buddies?"
Courses from the center will be designed to suit the audience, from fifth-graders to veteran backcountry travelers, and are taught by professional instructors. Ranging up to four hours, the courses will cover trip planning, avalanche awareness, water safety, communication, wilderness medicine, signaling devices and more. All include hands-on activities to practice what is taught,
Details at alaskasnow.org. Call 255-2242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a program.