Lack of snow leads to the cancellation of the longest dog race in the eastern United States

Jonathan Hayes woke up at 5 a.m. in rural Maine to feed his two dozen dogs Monday morning, and his heart sank when he learned that the sled race they’d been training for since the fall was canceled.

The Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race, the longest dog race in the eastern United States, will be canceled for the first time since the race began more than three decades ago due to a lack of snow, event organizers said.

The news dealt a blow to mushers who had spent long hours training to prepare for the event, which was to be held March 1-5 in Fort Kent, Maine, which borders Canada.

Mr Hayes, a high school biology teacher, spent hours training his dogs after his family went to bed. “I’ve been building up training and conditioning for the last six months for something that’s just been cancelled,” Mr Hayes said. “It is hard.”

The decision to cancel was a matter of safety, said Dennis Cyr, president of Can-Am. Since there is not so much snow this year, there will be plenty of vegetation, bushes, stones and gravel exposed on the trails.

“It would not be safe to run dogs or volunteers to be at remote checkpoints,” Mr Cyr said. “We don’t want to expose our mushers to that or ruin our reputation by having a sloppy race this year.”

For the fall and winter, Fort Kent got about 58 inches of snowfall, compared to the 72 inches that usually falls in the area, said Timothy Duda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Caribou, Maine.

Scientists say it is difficult to attribute a single anomalous weather event to climate change. But winters in the United States have become milder in recent yearsand it’s winter warming faster than summer.

Mushing has a deep heritage in northern Maine, Mr. Cyr said. In the early 1900s, dog sledding, or sledding, was a common mode of travel during the winter months in many northern parts of the United States and Canada and eventually grew into a form of recreation.

Can-Am racing has gained respect from mushers over the years, and even qualified for the Iditarod, the famous annual long-distance sled race held in Alaska.

Sixty-four teams are slated to compete in three races — a 30-mile race, a 100-mile race and a 250-mile race — which draw roughly 5,000 to 10,000 spectators each year, Mr. Cyr said. Many of the collectors traveled from the Midwest, Quebec, and one from France even planned to attend.

Usually, all those spectators and competitors also provide a good boost to Fort Kent’s economy, Mr. Cyr said.

“You can never book a motel room within a year of Cam-Am weekend,” Mr. Cyr said. “Local restaurants, gas stations, stores are usually full this weekend.”

Organizers begin planning a year in advance to get sponsorships, plan fundraising banquets and lay out trails and contact logging companies to find out where to cut timber and reroute around those sections.

This is the first year that the organizers decided to cancel. There were two years where they changed a little because of track problems. During the Covid pandemic, they held a “virtual race” where they told mushers to track their trail systems using GPS and to cover a certain amount of miles in a certain time frame.

They hope they won’t have to cancel again anytime soon.

“We look forward to welcoming you again in 2025,” event organizers he wrote on social networks“under more favorable conditions, to celebrate together the spirit of racing with dogs”.

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