The Siberian Husky Club’s 22nd Aviemore Sled Dog Rally
That is always the question asked by friends and family on our return from the highlands of Scotland. This year’s answer is ‘yes and no’! The Siberian Husky Club’s 22nd Aviemore Sled Dog Rally was once again blighted by the ever-increasing lack of winter conditions in the UK.
Despite long-range weather forecasts of crashing storms that sent the 211 Mushers rushing for arctic clothing, sleds stayed on the roofs of vans merely proclaiming membership of what in most parts of Britain can only be described as a minority pursuit, save in Aviemore during the third and fourth weeks of January when their appearance turns Scotland’s major ski resort’s High Street into a virtual scene from Alaska … or, dare I say it … the film Snow Dogs.
For the technically-minded, course conditions were good. Work on the trails by Forest Enterprise is now maturing and improvements near the start line worked to make probably some of the best running conditions at the event - ice fortunately held the ground firm without hazard and temperatures were kind, staying low so teams ran at their best for some years. Result times are given below. It is a very real fact that times are improving dramatically not only at this Event, but for Sled Dog Racing in the UK as a whole – not only Siberian Huskies but also the Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Canadian Eskimo Dogs and Greenland Huskies. Indeed, the winning two-dog Samoyed Team put many larger pure Siberian Teams to shame!
With the loss of sponsorship for this event after the 2004 race, unfortunately efforts to identify alternative funding for 2005 were unsuccessful. Enthusiasm from the competitors, however, and a commitment to continue with this most prestigious of sled dog races in the UK persuaded the Club’s Committee to continue and with donations from a Garden Centre in Weston-super-Mare, a personal gift from one of the Club’s Vice Presidents - Annemarie Kolbe - and HUSSE UK (a new arrival in the UK Petfood market) very kindly sponsored the ever-popular commemorative sweatshirt – as my fellow-organiser Lindsey Sutherland said ‘my wardrobe wouldn’t be complete without my annual shirt!’
On-site vets – an innovation continued from 2004 – were thankfully kept virtually unemployed and Red Cross Volunteers were similarly inactive and although the snow levels were sadly minimal, enough covering gave the event the impression of a Snow Race and it has to be said that UK Mushers are generally happier when running on their more familiar wheeled rigs than fragile sleds. Indeed if snow cover is eventually sufficient to enable sleds to be used it will be interesting to see how much effect the conditions have on results. Our Mushers are just not able to put in the practice on this most different vehicle.
The Aviemore Event does not only include the Sprint Race. Friday morning’s Weight Pull – when the bigger boys take on ever-increasing weights – was well attended and once again the Alaskan Malamute Working Association kindly hosted this aspect of the week-end. It is quite staggering to see the ability of these dogs and how much they enjoy the work.
Since 2001 the Juniors Race – held at the crack of dawn on the Race Days – have enjoyed a much-improved course. This year, hosted by Ewan Robertson and Snopeak Siberians proved as popular as ever. Run under the same Regulations as the main events, it is good to see the Juniors taking such an interest in the sport, which must be encouraging for the future.
And then, just when everyone thinks the weekend is over and there is only a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park to see how the wolf pack is progressing, comes the now famous Aviemore Trek. Held on the following Tuesday and hosted by the Aceca Crew headed by Bruce Hall, teams traverse the foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains, from Inshriach Forest through Rothiemurchus Estate and over Scottish Natural Heritage trails, to include river crossings and virtual goat-trails, dropping down through Forest Enterprise’s Glenmore Forest park to the finish - some 12.5 miles through some of the most spectacular scenery in the newly formed Cainrgorm National Park. It is always a pleasure to see a first-timer finish… with a smile (dogs included) and shouting ‘forget the races, this is what it is all about’. Terry Coldham was that Musher this year!
Now back down south, and with time to reflect on the race, I can safely say it was one of the best ever. Yes, sometimes one is reminded of the swan paddling like mad to achieve the smooth glide over the pond, but anyone who has organised any event can relate to this feeling, I know.
Atmosphere at the Aviemore Race over the years since 1984 (it is now the longest-running Race in the UK) is always a guideline to the eventual success of any year and I can honestly say that 2005 was the best ever. Teams have now associated themselves with the rigours of one-minute-starts and even welcome the fast pace this requirement brings in order to fit all the teams in during daylight hours. I cannot begin to thank all those involved in the Aviemore Race – some I have mentioned above, but special recognition is needed for Kenny Sutherland and Alan Bowering, not only for their unstinting work, but also for their understanding of very stressed spouses as well ! I cannot continue with the list of people without being likened to a thank you speech by Richard Attenborough, but safe to say without them, the event would not happen and, of course, without competitors we wouldn’t have a race – so a very big thank you to all involved.
Finally, although accounts are not yet finalised, it is believed the race will be able to continue into 2006 and Meetings have already begun, mainly to identify how we can continue and grow to match the event with its success. There are changes afoot, hopefully, for the better but safe to say the Aviemore Sled Dog Race continues from strength to strength and we look forward to January 2006 already!
Hon.Secretary SHC of GB and Aviemore Event Organiser