BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — Ironically, too much snow fell Saturday for the inaugural Bighorn Rush Sled Dog Challenge. The adverse weather conditions may have slowed the dog mushers, but it didn’t stop them entirely. Sunday morning brought better weather at Antelope Butte as the two-day event wrapped up with trophies, cash prizes and many smiles.
“Overall, it went great,” event director Ben Keller said. “Sunday was as good as it could have been for the mushers to forget the trials of Saturday. The main goal was for people to enjoy it, and that’s how they left on Sunday.”
Tara Lynn took home the title in the eight-dog, 13-mile loop. Mushers ran the same route both Saturday and Sunday, and times from both days were combined for an aggregate tally. Lynn recorded a time of 3 hours, 3 minutes. Allan Berge placed second, clocking in at 3:32 while Tabetha Berge crossed third with a time of 3:37.
The amount of snow and wind Saturday forced Keller and his crew of volunteers to reroute the 13-mile course away from an exposed area near Antelope Butte’s summit. The adjustment shaved approximately 2 miles off the course, creating an 11-mile track.
The new snow that fell Friday night and Saturday also made for a slower and more treacherous race. The soft snow on the course made it more difficult for the dogs to gain speed, and the area just off the path could halt the dogs immediately due to the depth of the powder. Blowing and falling snow made visibility tough, as well.
“The No. 1 thing is the safety of both the dogs and mushers,” Keller said. “Most of those people, they don’t live around here, so they aren’t familiar with the mountain. So when they’re up there on the trails, they’re relying on the trail markers that we have out on the trail. In addition to that, they’re following what appears to be a groomed path, and when you get weather like we had, the visibility is poor making it more difficult.”
All mushers that began the competition tackled the adverse conditions to finish the race. The event, however, didn’t start at the Antelope Butte lodge like Keller initially intended.