Race to the Sky turns 37 and honors late co-founder | Montana News

This year’s Race to the Sky, the 37th annual long-distance sled dog race that begins and ends in Lincoln, will look and feel a little different for many involved without David Armstrong’s presence.

Armstrong, who led the Army’s training of 850 sled dogs and 100 pack dogs as well as GI handlers in the 1940s at Camp Rimini, helped found Race to the Sky and was a favorite among mushers and the participants. He died in April at the age of 100.

“We’ve always admired him for guidance,” said Pam Beckstrom, vice chairman of the board of Montana Sled Dog, Inc.

Beckstrom and her husband, Jack Beckstrom, along with Armstrong helped found Montana Sled Dog, the non-profit organization that organizes Race to the Sky.

Armstrong competed in the inaugural race he helped create, originally a 500-mile race known as the Montana Governor’s Cup 500, but Pam Beckstrom said he usually shows up every year after that to talk to mushers, give expert advice and tell some stories. .

“Boy, he had some great stories,” she said. “He was definitely an icon. The mushers respected him.”

The 37th event, the 300 and 100 mile races, are scheduled to begin Saturday, February 12 at 2 p.m. near the Hi-Country Trading Post in Lincoln.

Entrants can get in on the action early by checking out the vet checks. Sled teams participating in the 300-mile race will be inspected by veterinarians on Friday, February 11, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

100-mile race teams are inspected Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Beckstrom encouraged participants to stop for a more relaxed environment than the race itself.

“The public is welcome to come and ask the mushers questions, watch the dogs,” she said.

Musher and Lincoln resident Nicole Lombardi said the interaction with participants that occurs during veterinary checks is always one of her favorite aspects of the races.

“It’s fun for the audience to watch the dogs, ask questions,” Lombardi said. “It’s great to see little kids fall in love with dogs, and dogs fall in love with them.”

Lombardi and his Lincoln stable of about 30 sled dogs train almost daily in the wilderness that makes up the arduous 100-mile race of Race to the Sky, from Lombardi and his team’s backyard to Morrell Creek. Trailhead.

She said she would rely on that home court advantage when looking to win the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown.

For only the second time, Montana’s Race to the Sky is partnering with Eagle Cap Extreme in Oregon and the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge. Mushers who run in all three will compete for the Triple Crown trophy.

Lombardi and company won the first two heats in the eight-dog class, and when asked about the importance of winning the triple crown, she said, “I’d like to be successful in this business.”

“It’s eight of my best friends there,” she said of her teammates. “When these dogs really trust you, it’s a special relationship.”

Beckstrom said this year’s track, which was marked Saturday and Sunday, is largely similar to last year’s with only minor tweaks.

She said the trail is fast due to a layer of ice under the snow.

“There’s really nice snow in the mountains right now,” Beckstrom said. “The concern is always if it starts to melt. I think it will be fine.”

There are 27 teams registered to take part in the 2022 Race to the Sky – 14 participants in the 300-mile and 13 in the 100-mile race.

Beckstrom said there were two father and son teams.

She said no junior 100-mile races were held this year due to a lack of junior mushers.

A tribute to Armstrong will take place before the race starts on Saturday morning.

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