Cold weather brings exposure for children to dogsledding

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette A musher and team give two passengers a free dogsled ride at Agassiz Park.

CALUMET — With frosty breath and smiles, local kids tried their hand at dog sledding this Saturday.

For several years The CopperDog 150 has offered these free rides to hundreds of local children at Agassiz Park in Calumet.

“It’s fun… it’s kind of how we pay back the community. It’s an event for the children,” said longtime organizer Renee Cunningham.

The rides were provided by Tom and Sally Bauer from Otter River Sled Dog Training Center and Wilderness Adventures. The volunteers typically give rides to 100-200 kids. On a good year there can be as many as 300.

In addition to the rides, kids and parents could pet the dogs and pose for photos with a racing sled, number and fur mittens (dubbed gee and haw). Hot dogs, coffee and hot chocolate were also free to families.

The weather was cold but not cold enough to freeze the hot dog toppings solid like in previous years — or so went the horror stories.

Kids were also able to see the dogs up close, though not all the dogs looked like they belonged on a typical sled dog team.

“It’s really interesting. Most people come over and look at these and don’t think they’re really sled dogs,” said racer and volunteer Jerry Trudell of Sharks Came Racing.

His sled dogs are mixed with other breeds leaving them without that distinctive thick coat. Dogs like his are common in the warmer racing environments, Trudell explained, as they are typically faster, though less likely to survive minus-50-degree weather.

Though one thing all the dogs had in common was an eagerness to run. The snowy air was filled with barking.

“The excitement they have when they’re starting to race, the power is just phenomenal,” Trudell said.

The official CopperDog 150 race is set for Mach 2-4 in 2018 when these teams will appear again.

“You give a man anything that moves, and they’re gonna race it,” Trudell said.