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Dog sled races shortened due to lack of snow

By Zachary Greco

MARMORA, Ont. (04/02/12) Kris Sampson comforts his dogs after running in the Marmora sled dog races Saturday morning. Sampson, who has been racing for four years, says he wasn't even sure if he would be racing because of the weather. The majority of the races were cancelled on Saturday due to the lack of snow this winter. Photo by Zachary Greco

The dogs were out and the sleds were ready for the annual Marmora Cup sled dog races, but the snowfall decided to keep at bay.

At -3 C, with the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, the mushers took what they could get from the lack of snow.  This year’s race was shortened to 25 kilometres from the usual 60 kilometres.

The mushers said they didn’t mind the lack of snow and cold winds, because the races were a go.

Many of this year’s sled dog races have been cancelled because of uncooperative weather.

“We really didn’t know if we were even going to race today,” said musher Kris Sampson from South River, Ont.  “We were just coming to check it out and if it was good for the dogs we were going to go.”

Sampson usually runs about five to eight races a year.  But this was the first race of the year for some at the weekend’s races.

“It was good.  It was a very fast trail,” said Sampson.  “It started to warm up a little bit later in the day so it was good that we got an early start.  Mother Nature is a big part of this, so you do what you can.”

The trail was modified this year to fit the weather conditions by moving the start/finish line and shortening the trail.  Volunteers worked on the trail prior to the race in an attempt to keep the races alive this year, moving snow from different areas in the woods to the trail.

“There was not enough snow to get the pad down for the weight pulls, so that had to be cancelled,” said volunteer Lynne Gapes.

One event, skijoring, was supposed to have been cancelled but went on with the only one racer in attendance.

“We’ve got a gorgeous day today.  After all the rain we’ve had this winter, this is phenomenal.  This is one of the better days we have had this winter,” said Gapes.

“I’m very pleased with how things turned out,” said SnoFest chair Richard Lowery.  “It was a great community effort getting the trail ready and we received favourable response from the crowd and racers.”

When the races started in Marmora, the trail was originally a 150 kilometer run, which turned to 120-kilometre, which in turn dropped to the current 60 kilometre run.

Weather conditions aside, the races still had a good turnout of competitors, said volunteer Brian Galloway.

“The trail’s a little bit icy but nobody’s having a hard time with it,” said Galloway.  “As to local snow conditions, we’re really lucky and it’s a good turnout.”

Galloway has been at the Marmora races since it was a 150-kilometre race and was the race marshal for about five years.

“I’ve stepped down now, but people used to know that if they’ve seen the hat they knew the guy under it was the person to talk to,” said Galloway of his badger pelt hat.

The hat made from a badger, which was shot, skinned and sewn in Lethbridge, Alta. has been a staple of the Marmora races for the last 15 years.

“The crowd’s down a little bit this year,” said Galloway.  “But it was so iffy that it was touch and go there for a while.”