CASCADE, Idaho (Jan. 9, 2023) — The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is returning to the West Central Mountains of Idaho this month during the 2023 McCall Winter Carnival.
Celebrating its fifth year, the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge features world-class mushers. It is the only 300-mile Yukon Quest qualifier in the lower 48 and one of only three such events for the Iditarod in the contiguous continental U.S. The Iditarod and the Yukon Quest are considered the longest and the toughest sled dog races in the world.
The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, which includes the Eagle Cap Extreme Jan. 18-21 near Joseph, Ore., and the Race to the Sky Feb. 10-14 near Helena, Mont.
According to Idaho Sled Dog Challenge co-founder and trail coordinator Dave Looney, the Idaho race is considered one of the most grueling mushing competitions in the world due to its topography.
“Mushers will tell you this is a very, very atypical race,” Looney says. “Our elevation change is 36,000 feet, which is greater than the Iditarod. They call it a 500-mile race packed into 300 miles. So the dog care and the pacing and the attention they have to pay to the terrain is really important, because there’s a lot of up and down. One musher said the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is like climbing Mt. Everest — twice.”
In addition to the 300-mile Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier and the 100-mile race, this year’s Idaho Sled Dog Challenge offers the new, 52-mile Warm Lake stage race for mushers new to the sport or running new sled dog teams. Like last year, organizers are not staging a junior race this year.
Race organizers are bringing back the ceremonial start, which will take place at the McCall Activity Barn Jan. 29 — the day before the 300-mile and 100-mile races start. Valley County Pathways is grooming several miles of trail for the ceremonial start, and race organizers are auctioning off sled dog rides with mushers competing in the races. Organizers encourage spectators to make a day of it and stop by and watch the vet checks at the Ridley’s parking lot in McCall and then head over to the ceremonial start or vice versa.
Organizers are also auctioning off what’s billed as the adventure of a lifetime — a private 2023 Iditarod tour package for two. The bidding starts at $4,500 and ends Feb. 1 at midnight. The winning bidder and one guest will experience the finish of the 2023 Iditarod, dubbed the “Last Great Race on Earth.” They’ll fly out on the race trail, visit checkpoints, take in the vast beauty, and experience Alaskan culture, according to Idaho Sled Dog Challenge founder and organizer Jerry Wortley, who serves as an Iditarod Air Force pilot.