Australia’s largest annual dog sled race took place earlier this month, despite a complete lack of snow, in a sport that’s known more for its popularity in the arctic region.
The race takes place annually in the northern region of the Australian state of Victoria and usually, June being the start of the Australian winter, competitors face barren stretches of land blanketed in a thick layer of snow and frost. But this year, there was a problem: there was no snow.
Instead, the 190 racers were forced to use vehicles designed for dry land racing, some that were comprised of parts that came from mountain bikes as pricy as $1000.
The man responsible for saving the event was 45-year-old Vaughan Winther, on the committee of the Northern Victorian Sleddog Club. He fought to keep the annual race from being terminated, when the former committee resigned after 21 consecutive years.
“[The dry land is] quicker than snow,” Winther said. “Snow tends to be slower because the dogs have to drag a sled.” Knowing that the fastest dogs tear along the trails between 30 and 35 kmph and finish the 2.2km stretch in an incredibly short 4 minutes, the fact that the race is quicker without snow means that the dogs could move even faster; being able to move more quickly and freely means that there’s more competition from the well-trained canines.”
But if you think this predicament is unique to Australia, think again. Even the world famous Iditarod dog sled race held in Alaska earlier this year saw huge swaths of the staggering 975-mile trail completely devoid of snow.
Is this more evidence of climate change manifesting on total opposite sides of the planet? At this rate, in less than 50 years, these races will need to be moved to colder, snowier areas; and the courses that were trod upon for decades will soon become fragments of the past.