The Bootleg Sled Dog Races were an instant hit, drawing thousands of spectators for the first rendition in 2009, and they just kept getting better.
But there were also difficulties pulling off the huge event each year, the major one being very uncertain weather. In fact the 2012 races had to be called off due to lack of snow.
Now the Bootleg Sled Dog Race Society in conjunction with Bootleg Gap Golf Course which hosted the races, have made the difficult decision to call them off permanently.
Organizer Brenda Birrell says it’s a combination of the current economic situation and the unpredictable weather patterns.
“With unpredictable weather each year, it has been hard to ensure enough snow to allow safe conditions for the dogs and competitors,” Birrell said. “A huge amount of work and expense is required to put on the race each year by both the Sled Dog Race Society and Bootleg Gap Golf Course. Having unpredictable conditions puts all that work and expense at risk each year until the last minute. Also making it hard for the competitors to plan to attend as many travel a great distance to get here.
The races began in 2009 and blue skies, weather just a little warmer than mushers may have liked lead to huge crowds and instant success.
One of the contributing factors to the success was the location at Bootleg Gap, where spectators could go inside the clubhouse building for refreshments and mushers could warm up as well. It was quite different from other races where the track was way out in the bush.
In 2010, there were more big crowds, and though organizers were nervous about warm weather and lack of snow leading to poor track conditions, the races went ahead. The track barely held and conditions were tough leading to several crashes. The decision was made to move the race ahead two weeks to the beginning of February.
In 2011, things were looking very good a few weeks out then the Pineapple Express rolled in and it rained. Organizers were worried but in the end just enough snow fell to go ahead. The third rendition of the Bootleg Races actually saw the best track conditions in the history of the race as mushers could let their teams run.
But in 2012, snow came too late and the race was called off for the first time.
“We would like to thank the many sponsors, volunteers and competitors who made it such a great success the 3 years it did run. With the tremendous support it received this event raised over $50,000 for the East Kootenay Friends of Children charity,” Birrell said.