Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon canceled due to lack of snow

Clarke Garry
Clarke Garry, of Togo, Minn. starts at the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, in Duluth, Minn., on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011.
Submitted by Paul Walsh

The 29th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has been canceled due to lack of snow, according to an announcement Monday from organizers.

The race normally runs from Duluth to the Gunflint Trail and back. It was scheduled to begin Jan. 29.

"With the safety of mushers, dogs and the many volunteers which is the number one concern of the Board, lack of snow and poor trail conditions prohibit the running of a safe race," according to a news release.

The race board met Sunday night to make the decision. Beargrease Board President Geoff Vukelich said without snow, the snow hook, which is used to halt the dogs, is rendered ineffective.

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"When you stop -- you have a tangle or the dogs take wrong turn or the sleds tipped over -- you have to anchor that into the snow, and if there isn't a quality snow pack, obviously it will not stick. And you can't stop the team," Vukelich said.

The race has only been cancelled once before -- in 2007.

Vukelich says the Beargrease usually costs between $40,000-$50,000 to operate. It's not clear if the non-profit that runs the event will lose money this year due to the cancellation.

The organization typically covers its costs through sponsorships and merchandise sales, Vukelich said. Last year it broke even.

Other race week events are still on, including a gala and silent auction on Jan. 27, and the Jan. 28 cutest puppy contest.