In a valley that loves its dogs, it's not a surprise to learn about Wood River Valley folks attending a skijoring competition at Whistler ski resort in British Columbia in which a cross-country skate skier is pulled by one or two dogs.
Trent Herbst, Troy Larsen and Dave Markum, all valley residents, took their dogs and skis to Canada to compete in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, held Friday, Jan. 8, and Saturday, Jan. 9.
Not only was the valley represented in the skijoring competition, but the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge is co-produced by Ketchum-based Carson Events. Carson produces the event with Nestlé and Purina.
"It was the first time we did the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge in Whistler," said Kathy Carson, Carson International president. "We have done four other winter events."
Carson said it's like the canine Olympics. Events included avalanche rescue, skijoring, agility, head-to-head 60-weave pole racing and freestyle flying disc.
For more than 12 years, major networks and cable television have broadcast the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge.
"People in Whistler love dogs just as much as they do in Sun Valley," Carson said. "Purina does the events to show how all dogs can be incredible with the right nutrition, exercise and love from dog owners. The dogs have bragging rights."
Carson said the dog challenge was an international event, with both Canadian and American competitors. She said we could do something similar in Ketchum.
"I would love to find more ways to promote skijoring," said Larsen, who placed fourth in the skijoring competition in Whistler. "It is one of the best recreational ways to ski and be with your dog. There are tons of breeds that love to pull."
Larsen said he competes in four or five skijoring events every winter. His dogs are Alaskan huskies bred for racing. The breed is smaller than most sled dogs and has a thinner coat to avoid overheating.
"We train the dogs like lead dogs or sled dog teams," Larsen said. "The dogs are command trained."
Larsen and Herbst are good friends and train sled dogs together in the valley and surrounding area. Herbst competes in the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska, a 1,150-mile race from Anchorage to the Bering Sea coast. Larsen and Herbst are also friends with Markum. Markum was skijoring with Herbst's dog, Hoover.
"In our world, the important thing in a dog's pedigree it that their parents like to pull hard and were athletes," Larsen said. "The best part about skijoring is that it is a combination sport with a skier and dog and you are working together and you get to enjoy Nordic skiing with a lot more speed."
Carson said The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge show will air in the spring on a nationally syndicated network.
Sabina Dana Plasse: firstname.lastname@example.org