Middleton woman trains for Idaho Sled Dog Challenge

MIDDLETON, Idaho — The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge returns to this year’s McCall Winter Carnival as teams take on the daunting 300-mile challenge through Idaho’s backcountry.

Elizabeth Nevills was first introduced to carnival sled dog racing when she was 14, now she has her own team of mostly Alaskan huskies and some of her friend’s dogs complete the team.

“We spend a lot of time outdoors. I know each of their personalities and they’re all different,” Nevills said. “Aurora here is only two years old and full of playfulness and nonsense, Mars is going to be six and he’s a bit more serious, so you gotta get to know them all and they become your best friends.”

It was quite a scene to see how excited the dogs were when Elizabeth started leading them to the line because these dogs love to run.

“We have to put the dogs in two-wheel drive because they’re so much stronger than me, even at just 45 pounds,” Nevills said. “So when I bring them to the line I pull on the collars and they walk on two feet dragging me to their place on the dog line because they want to go so badly but if I let them use all four feet so I’m on the ground.”

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is a qualifier for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, but it’s also part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown which includes Oregon‘s Eagle Cap Extreme and Montana’s Race to the Sky.

Nevills trains north of Middleton in BLM terrain which is both positive and negative she told us Snowmageddon was the only year there was enough snow to run a sled instead she drags behind the team in an ATV because the closest place to pick up the dogs is hours away.

“Dogs really get used to hard ground, so when we finally get on a sled and on the snow, they get super excited because they like the cold, they like to eat the snow, they like to ride in it, and they like to go. fast on a sled because it weighs a lot less than an ATV,” Nevills said.

It’s one of the reasons Elizabeth is so happy to see the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge return to the McCall Winter Carnival after it was canceled a year ago due to the pandemic.

“I love hearing the snow falling from the trees, there’s no noise and everyone is smiling and having a good time,” Nevills said. “But I also love running the races, it brings together a community that loves and cares for their dogs.”

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge begins Jan. 31, the next day there will be a 100-mile race for teens ages 14-17, and the McCall’s Winter Carnival begins Jan. 28.

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