Published January 23, 2013, 12:13 PM

Frazee sled dog race set for Feb. 23

If at first you don’t succeed… The Frazee Sled Dog Club has doubtless taken that adage to heart in recent years, as a lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures have wreaked havoc with scheduling for its popular annual race event, the Third Crossing Sled Dog Rendezvous.

By: Vicki Gerdes, DL-Online

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Frazee Sled Dog Club has doubtless taken that adage to heart in recent years, as a lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures have wreaked havoc with scheduling for its popular annual race event, the Third Crossing Sled Dog Rendezvous.

For the past several years, the sled dog race held just outside Frazee has been postponed or pre-empted by Mother Nature more often than not.

And this year is no exception: The race’s originally-scheduled date of Jan. 19 has been pushed back a month, until Saturday, Feb. 23.

Once again, weather is the reason, said Frazee Sled Dog Club President Neal Seeger.

Though it may seem as though the region has had more than enough snowfall to meet the minimum requirement of a six-inch snow base on the trails, appearances can be deceptive.

“It’s because of the rain we had the week of Jan. 7,” Seeger said. “We only had about a quarter to a half inch of snow after all that rain and mist…

“Rain melts snow, which creates ice, which makes unsafe trail conditions — for the dogs, for the spectators, for everybody,” he added. “We no longer have a good base. We have to have compacted snow on our trails, and there has to be at least six inches on the ground to have decent compaction for our teams and sleds to run on.”

One of the reasons for this is that the “snow hooks” on the sleds — which essentially act as the sled’s parking brake — need to have “something to hook onto,” Seeger said.

In fact, to run the larger, 8-dog sleds, there should be at least 8 inches of snow to be able stop safely, he added.

“If you have nothing to hook into, you basically have an unsafe situation,” Seeger said. “If the hook doesn’t hold, the dogs can get loose and run away from the musher — then someone has to try to catch them.”

Besides the lack of snow, the harsh winds and subzero temperatures this past weekend would likely also have kept spectators away, Seeger pointed out.

“That time of year (February) is a little better for snow conditions, typically, and the weather will hopefully be a little more favorable,” he said.

Though the original deadline for entering sled teams in the race was Jan. 15, that has now been pushed back a month as well, to Feb. 16.

“A lot of people were holding off from entering, because they knew what the weather was like,” Seeger said.

Now, however, organizers are hoping more racers will sign up.

There are five different race categories this year: 3-dog junior (mushers under age 16); 1 or 2-dog skijoring (where mushers use cross country skis instead of a sled); and 4-dog, 6-dog and 8-dog professional races.

The professional races not only use a longer course, but the winners will receive prize money, while the winners in the non-pro classes will receive trophies instead.

The races will start promptly at noon, and conclude by late afternoon.

“They’re all mass start races,” Seeger said, which means that the sleds will all start off together, with the first teams across the finish line being declared the prize winners in each division.

“They need no timing,” he said. “When the flags drop, the teams take off and run down their respective race trails.”

Typically, an 8-dog race would involve an 8-mile course; a 6-dog race would be on a 6-mile course, and so on. The junior and skijor races would be approximately 3-4 miles in length, Seeger added.

The races will follow the same basic path, from the starting point next to the city wastewater lagoon off County Road 10, across the adjacent farm fields and looping back around to where they began.

“It’s a curvy, hilly course,” Seeger said, noting that at some points the course may involve climbs of 30 feet or more from the bottom of one hill to the top of the next — but for the most part, the course is “gentle, rolling hills,” he added.

Following the day’s racing, there will also be an awards ceremony at the Hostel Hornet, Frazee’s newest restaurant. The ceremony is scheduled to start at around 7 p.m., and the public is invited to attend this portion of the festivities as well, Seeger said.

Though the Frazee Sled Dog Club no longer maintains its own website, people who are interested in entering can download entry forms at the North Star Sled Dog Club’s website, www.nssdc.org.

They can then print out a copy of the form, fill it out and mail it along with their check (payable to the Frazee Sled Dog Club) to the following address: Frazee Sled Dog Club, P.O. Box 187, Frazee MN 56544 USA.

Seeger will also accept phone entries at 218-847-1013.

There is no charge for spectators, he added, and the club is hoping to see lots of them — weather permitting.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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