Rossland skijorer Dana Luck will compete against the world’s best when he takes his team of racing dogs to the 2015 International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) Dryland World Championships in Bristol, Quebec at the end of this month.
It sounds impressive, and indeed it is once Luck explains that dryland racing is similar to dogsled racing without the snow, and with the sled exchanged for a bike, scooter, or cart pulled by one-to-eight charging canines.
“The four, six, and eight dog cart classes are much more like dogsledding,” said Luck. “The two-dog scooter is the closest thing to skijoring for me. There is also bikejoring (one dog and driver on a bike), and canicross (one dog and a person running behind), but I don’t usually race in those classes.”
Luck has competed in skijoring, a combination of skate-skiing and dogsledding, for the past four years and was ranked number 1 in Canada and seventh in North America by the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) in 2014.
The transition to dryland racing was a natural one for the 34-year-old dog-handler, who started his interest in skijoring after a sleddog tour with Salmo’s Al Magaw and Spirit of the North Kennels.
“For me, it started as a way to have fun in the off season but I am becoming hooked on it and try to get to a couple of dryland races each year,” said Luck. “Dryland is very exciting and makes it possible for me to do what I am passionate about for a longer season.”
The avid skijorer also races his dogs in the more traditional sleddog events in winter, but finds the dryland training in the summer and fall months a great way to keep both he and his dogs sharp and in shape.
“I love working with my dogs and they love to work so the more races I can get them to the better for both of us. I try to work hard to accomplish my goals racing, so dryland racing is nice way to keep focused through the off season.”
The major difference between skijoring and dryland racing is the distances are shorter in the warmer season with most courses between three and six-kilometres depending on the category. However, the pace is much faster in dryland with teams hitting speeds over 40 kilometres-per-hour on a cart with a team of up to eight dogs careening along a narrow trail.
“Dryland races are generally higher speed than winter and some would call it more extreme,” he said. “You are without the usual snow-hook and brake that are on a dog sled, so it is more difficult to stop or control your dogs if you have an issue. You still have hand brakes like a bike, but with most racing dogs you would be lucky to stop four dogs.”
Luck will be racing in three categories: the two-dog scooter, the four-dog and six-dog cart when he joins hundreds of racers and their teams from across the globe at the World Championship in Quebec.
The event is just one of 15 IFSS sanctioned races held in Australia, the U.S., Sweden, Estonia, and Slovakia this season. The increasing numbers reflect a growing global interest in dogsledding and dryland racing, although in western Canada it hasn’t quite caught on to the same extent it has in the east.
“Dryland racing is very popular in other parts of the world,” said Luck. “It is starting to grow in Canada and having big events like the world championships are going to help promote it here.”
Luck is training in Grande Prairie to prepare, and has been competing in dryland for just two years, so his journey to the Worlds is marked by modest expectations.
“I am hoping to learn from the experience as it will be my first time competing at that high of a level,” said Luck. “It will be a great experience to meet other racers from around the world.”
Luck hopes to place in the top five in his best event, the two-dog class, but, his priority – just enjoy the ride.
“It is going to be a great experience and, most importantly, I want to make it a fun experience for myself and my dogs. I am very excited to represent team Canada and be part of such a big event.”