March 14th and 15th were busy days at the Tumbler Ridge Golf Course. The fifth annual Wolverine Challenge, sled dog race, was held at the Tumbler Ridge Golf and Country Club, Tumbler Ridge?s most scenic location.
Mushers from Dawson Creek, Tomslake, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Cecil Lake, Fort St. James, Prince George and Whistler came to this year?s event to compete for a purse of $3,000.
The weather was ideal. Saturday started out with moderate cold around 15 below, no wind and no snowfall. Sunday changed to blowing snow with sunny breaks later in the day. The track was groomed on packed snow providing optimal surface. Staying on the track was critical as deep snow awaited the musher who would come off the groomed trail. The race teams encountered quite balanced race conditions as the first part of the course was going against the wind, but the second part was faster when the wind was pushing from the back.
The first discipline on both days was the six dog race on seven kilometres of trail with an average time of 15 minutes. The four dog race was set on a six kilometre track, and the two dog was run on four kilometres. (con?t page 3)
Even if the Tumbler Ridge race track does not meet the length-requirement set by the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) or the International Federation of Sled-dog Sports (IFSS) the course attracts growing number of mushers from different kennels.
Last weekend the spectators at the Wolverine Challenge could observe two contrasting types of dog race participants. The team from Cecil Lake, which was the only returning team from the 2008 race, represented the outdoor-sports oriented family that loves dog races for the family aspect of the sport. The parents Robert and Charlene Gifford accompanied by their five children and a friend took the trip to Tumbler Ridge after the positive experience from last year. The interesting golf course racetrack (compared to running on a lake) and the welcoming community were two of the reasons to come back. Beside of that, their second youngest child, son Abraham, came back to defend his title in the Kid&Mutt race. The family has 11 Alaskan Huskies and practices the sport for three years now, with about two to three races per season. This past time is only affordable through the huge support the Giffords receive by their neighbor ranchers and the family effort put toward making own dog food. There still is cost for about 200 dollars/month. The reward is excitement, fun and joined experience of a great family sport. Six members of the Giffords? team took part in the race. Abraham and Lydia entered the Kid&Mutt race, daughter Leah the 2dog race, son Nathan the 4dog race and father Robert also the 2dog skijor.
A different approach to this sport could be observed by the team from Whistler representing First Mate Racing, established through joined forces of FirstMate Pet Foods and Whistler Dogsledding. The latter is the largest dog sledding kennel in North America of 300 dogs with the predominant activity in tourism oriented dog sledding. Chris Coghlan the Manager of Operations and his four team colleges are professional dogsled tour guides or tour guides in training. This team brought to Tumbler Ridge 31 dogs. 30 race dogs for different disciplines and Maahingen called Moe, the Mascot of the team. The professional approach was reflected in the race equipment and the custom-build rig as a quality sleeping quarter for the dogs and the men. Here again without a strong sponsor this never could happen and the team took great pride in keeping the values of professional appearance and performance high.
Independent from the approach to the Tumbler Ridge race all teams and participants were connected through the immense enthusiasm for the activity, the love and respect for the dogs and the absolute team spirit in all team members dogs and humans.
The closing ceremony at the Club House brought everyone together one more time before the teams took off to the next stop in the circuit, the race in Taylor on March 21st and 22nd.
A big thank you to all who came to participate, to watch and to make it happened.
Wolverine Challenge Final Standings
Richard CrittendenWhistler, BC2/Day total time27:15
Campbell AitkenWhistler, BC2/Day total time27:53
Michael BadineFort Nelson, BC2/Day total time28:39
Nathan GiffordClearwater, BC2/Day total time29:34
Carrie MendellWhistler, BC2/Day total time29:52
Cory HommyPrince George, BC2/Day total time32:19
Laura VinnedgeFort St. James, BC2/Day total time33:54
Craig HaughtonFort St. James, BC2/Day total time34:49
Richard CrittendenWhistler, BC2/Day total time28:37
Cory HommyPrince George, BC2/Day total time28:53
Chris CoghlanWhistler, BC2/Day total time29:37
Samuel DecosteWhistler, BC2/Day total time29:43
Michael BadineFort Nelson, BC2/Day total time31:17
Craig HaughtonFort St. James, BC2/Day total time40:04
Ken BunkerTomslake, BCDay 1 20:40 Day 2DNS
Michele BunkerTomslake, BCDay 1 42:56 Day 2DNS
Two Dog Skijor
Robert GiffordCecil Lake, BC2/Day total time36:49
Leah GiffordCecil Lake, BC2/Day total time42:57
Kidd & Mutt
Lydia GiffordCecil Lake, BC2/Day total time10:18
Abraham GiffordCecil Lake, BC2/Day total time11:31