JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The 23rd running of the Pedigree Stage Stop Race gets underway with a ceremonial departure from town square in downtown Jackson Hole.
The race is half Tour de France, half Iditarod—making stops in Alpine, Kemmerer, Big Piney/Marbleton, Pinedale, Lander, Driggs, and back again to Jackson Hole. Racers compete for best overall time and are also recognized for each stage won.
Strategy plays a part in stage stop racing, certainly more so than it does in endurance races like the Alaskan Iditarod. Mushers will have to calculate weather conditions, snow, distance to travel and terrain. They may choose to hook up more dogs for stages with a lot of climbing or less for a shorter sprint.
It’s not all about going fast. You want your dogs to have something left by the end of the race.
There is nothing like the Pedigree Stage Stop Race anywhere else in the world. One of the things that makes it unique is the focus on the dogs and their health and well-being. No less than five of the finest sled dog veterinarians oversee the race and check the canine athletes thoroughly before, during, and after the race.
The race is also community-oriented. It offers a unique opportunity for several towns along the way to see the sport up close and personal. It’s also a great way for racers to see Wyoming, as well. Dozens of mushers over the years have come from many faraway places in the world to race here.
And the participants might just love this event more than the fans. Lander musher Jerry Bath is a perfect example of what this race has meant to many in the state of Wyoming. Bath was a checkpoint volunteer for the race when it came through Lander years ago. The experience was so powerful for him he decided to get into the sport. Now, he’s been mushing the Stage Stop Race ever since 2009…and he wouldn’t miss it.
Bath is keeping a sort of travel log of this year’s race, offering a behind-the-scenes look into the world of mushing. Here’s an excerpt that captures perfectly what is going on today before the start of the race.
“Mushers also get a chance to catch up with old friends. Check out the competition, old and new. Do they have new dogs? What kind of harness is that? Those dogs look awfully big or small!
“It’s really funny when you see the dogs get dropped in the staging area on race day. Veteran dogs will stand at attention: ‘That’s right, I’m back.’ While a rookie dog might hit the ground wild-eyed as if to say, ‘What have I done?’ Even more hilarious is that you can see mushers doing the same thing. Boy, I love this game.”
Since local musher Frank Teasley launched the race in 1996, it has welcomed 349 participating teams and 5,496 dogs.
Race festivities begin tonight on the town square at 5pm. Race entrants will take off from the starting line beginning at 6:30pm. An after-party with torchlight parade and fireworks show follows at Snow King. Meet the mushers at the Snow King Event Center.
#1 Jerry Scdoris (Bend, Oregon)
Jerry started running sled dogs in 1977. He’s provided 47,000+ paid guests with a safe, exhilarating once-in-a lifetime dog sledding experience. “I believe stage racing is the most challenging format and I love it!” he says. “I’m here to showcase the tremendous gains my dogs have made in the past year. We call our dogs Oregon Mountain dogs.” 2018 marks Jerry’s 6th Stage Stop Race.
#2 Alix Crittenden (Bondurant, Wyoming)
Alix and husband Sam own and operate Sleeping Indian Outfitters in Bondurant, Wyoming where they guide horseback, fishing, and hunting trips. She plays the fiddle and writes about her adventures in her blog, “Lash Ropes and Lipstick.” Alix placed 2nd in the 2016 Pedigree® 8-Dog Classic, 8th in the 2017 IPSSSDR and 6th in the 2014 IPSSSDR. “I LOVE this race and I’m so glad to be back!” says an enthusiastic Alix.
#3 Chris Adkins (San Coulee, Montana)
Chris operates a 45-dog kennel with his wife, Kim, and kids. He got his start from his Dad, Terry Adkins, and started competing in one-dog races in Alaska as a boy. Chris ran his first 500-mile race at age 21 where he finished in 5th place. Since then, he’s competed in the Iditarod; Race to the Sky 100, 350 and 500; Seeley Lake 100 and 200; American Dog Derby; and the IPSSSDR three times. Chris is sponsored by Kindred Plumbing, and R.A.T.T.
#4 Austin Forney (Leadville, Colorado)
Austin lives and trains at 10,152 ft. in Leadville, Colorado where he’s the Kennel Manager for Alpine Adventures Dogsledding. He thanks his wife, Anessa, his parents, Dean and Jane, and everyone at Alpine Adventures Dogsledding, as well as all his other friends and family for their continued love and support. “I look forward to sharing the trails with all the other talented competitors and their teams again this year.” This marks Austin’s 3rd consecutive year at the Stage Stop Race.
#5 Greta Thurston (Oak Creek, Colorado)
At age 17, Greta is the youngest Stage Stop competitor this year. She started racing last year in 3 races and placed first in all 3. Greta is racing with a team of dogs that she has raised from puppies. Even though last year was her first year racing them, she has been training and working with sled dogs for many years. When she’s not training her dogs, Greta enjoys riding horses, raising pigs for the county fair and she is very involved in 4-H leadership.
#6 Dave Torgerson (Red Lodge, Montana)
Since starting sled dog racing in 1989, Dave has raced extensively throughout USA and Canada middle distance and stage racing format through 2001. He put sled dog racing on hold to pursue other aspects of life (family and business), but returned to the runners behind a Streeper team for the 2017 Stage Stop and placed second. “The Stage Stop has become a family affair with my wife and three daughters. We’re all looking forward to returning this year.”
#7 Jerry Bath (Lander, Wyoming) WITHDRAWN
Jerry first became interested in sled dogs by helping at the Lander leg checkpoint of the first Stage Stop Race. “My Stage Stop experiences have been some of the most rewarding race experiences,” he says. In 2009, he entered his first IPSSSDR and has raced it every year since. “The level of professionalism and sportsmanship is second to none,” he says. “It truly is the Super Bowl of dog mushing.”
#8 Jeff Conn (Ester, Alaska)
A retired USDA agricultural research scientist and professional dog musher, Jeff began his mushing career in 1983 using a retired Iditarod leader to pull his sled on family ski trips. From racing three-dog sprint class, he’s progressed through five, eight, and ten dog classes where he won two ISDRA gold medals. Jeff has raced the Stage Stop the last five years and looks forward to competing with many familiar faces.
#9 Lina Streeper (Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada)
At age 12, Lina’s cousin, Jenny Gladd, introduced her to the sport. Although Lina grew up in Sweden, she moved to Canada in 2007. Now married and living in Fort Nelson BC, Lina states that she’s part of “the famous mushing Dynasty — STREEPER KENNELS. I want to thank my husband Buddy Streeper and father-in-law Terry Streeper for the opportunity to race these incredible animals. Special thanks to all my family and friends for their continued support.”
#10 Bruce Magnusson (Manchester, Michigan)
This is Bruce’s 13th consecutive Stage Stop! That’s more consecutive races than any other competitor in the history of the event! Several years ago, Bruce’s father met Lloyd Gilbertson, a professional sled dog racer. Bruce and his wife Monica went to a local race just to “see what Dad was up to” and “got hooked.” Although Bruce grew up playing sports, he says that for him no other sport compares to the thrill of sled dog racing.
#11 Jake Golton (L’Amable, Ontario, Canada) WITHDRAWN
Jake first raced the Stage Stop in 2011 as a dog handler for Aaron Peck then came back with his own team in 2013 after starting a kennel with this wife Nina. They raise and train Alaskan Huskies and race throughout Canada and the United States. “We are very excited to be racing in the 2018 IPSSSDR and look forward to participating in such an awesome race!” This year is Jake’s fourth time racing the Stage Stop.
#12 Laura Daugereau (Port Gamble, Washington)
Laura’s interest in sled dogs started when she was 10 and got her first dog. She’s been hooked ever since. “This led to a life of my working summers in Washington State for my family’s construction company, then relocating dogs and myself to Montana for fall and winter training,” she continues. She and her dogs travel all over the northern states, Canada and Alaska each year to compete in as many races as they can.
#13 Dennis Laboda (Hovland, Minnesota)
Dennis’ older brother, Dale, raced the International Pedigree® Stage Stop Race in the early years of the event. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Dennis also started mushing as a teenager and won the 1973 Minnesota State Championship 5-dog class. Having multiple wins and top finishes over the past 40+ years, Dennis has traveled all around the world, raced in North and South America, and been a race official in Europe.
#14 JR Anderson (Buyck, Minnesota)
A native Minnesotan, JR has dedicated over 20 years to the sport of endurance canines. Through research, extensive training, and competitive racing, he’s developed a keen knowledge of the canine’s ability to perform at accelerated levels. He and wife, Anna ‘Chapman’ Anderson, own River Rock Kennel in Buyck Minnesota. When not racing dogs, JR can be found playing with his daughter Sara and son Eli.