The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, a beloved Minnesota winter tradition, has been cancelled this year due to unusually warm weather and lack of snow, organizers announced this week.
The grueling 300-mile race through the rugged wilderness of northern Minnesota was scheduled to kick off on January 26, but unseasonably high temperatures have left the trails unsafe for mushers, dogs, and volunteers.
"We have been waiting for months for the weather to cooperate but at this point have run out of time," race officials said in a statement Tuesday night. "The lack of snow raises too many safety concerns for the dogs, mushers and volunteers along the trail."
With no significant snowstorms in sight, organizers determined they had no choice but to call off this year's competition. Postponing the race was not feasible due to the unpredictability of Minnesota winters.
The cancellation is disappointing news for mushers and dog sledging fans who look forward to the race each year. The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is considered one of North America's premier mid-distance sledge dog races, known for incorporating the beauty and brutality of Minnesota winters along its remote course.
The race challenges both rookie and veteran mushers along steep climbs, freezing temperatures, icy trails, and stark wilderness over three to four days of nonstop racing.
Teams of 12-14 dogs pull sledges carrying the mushers' supplies, with top finishers completing the full 300 miles in less than 40 hours.
Beyond competition, the race serves to commemorate the life of John Beargrease, a mail carrier for the Red Lake Indian Reservation who delivered mail by dog sled from 1911 to 1940.
Beargrease gained legendary status for his reliability in extreme weather conditions. The annual sled dog marathon began in 1980 as a memorial event celebrating his legacy.