Bethel Iron Dog racers travel to find snow

by Ben Matheson on February 4, 2014

Team 19 /  Photo by Ben Matheson

Team 19 / Photo by Ben Matheson

It may not look like snowmaching conditions outside, but in a few short days, 38 teams will race out of Big Lake on this year’s 2000-mile Iron Dog race. And just like our local sled dog racers, Bethel’s Iron Dog duo has been chasing snow around the state.

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Y-K Delta mushers Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl packed up their dogs and went to Nenana to get miles on their team. Likewise, Bethel’s Gux Laraux and Steve Boney shipped their practice sleds to Anchorage in search of rideable trails. Steve Boney makes up half of team 19.

“We’re putting more miles on the actual trail this year, being that there’s no snow here around town. So we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves,” said Boney.

He and his teammate Gux Laraux will race their Yahama Nytro 1049 sleds this month. Laraux says it’s not cheap to fly 400 miles just to find decent trails.

“Luckily I’ve got that Alaska Airlines card, built up a few miles, so we’ve riding air miles back and forth, that helped out a little bit. But it’s been good, we’ve been getting a lot training in on the race trail. We’ve got a lot of flat land out here so we’re hitting the hills and trees in town, so it helps out a lot,” said Laraux.

Like the Y-K Delta, much of the state is experiencing low or no snow conditions. Jim Wilkie is President of the Iron Dog board. He says there are often teams from Southcentral that want to train on the Yukon River and head out all the way to Nome.

“A couple teams started last weekend, got as far as Ruby and turned around, and cut those trips short. It’s going to be interesting. There are not a lot of miles being racked up for training,” said Wilkie.

Stay tuned to KYUK for a look at team 19’s strategy in the Iron Dog.

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