Denali Challenge
Challenge Summary
Entry Opens: Now A Past Challenge - Start Anytime
Challenge Distance: 50 miles
With travel options limited this year, why not take a virtual dog sled tour of Denali National Park with us?

Join us on the top 10 trails of Denali National Park, including Mount Healy Overlook, Savage Alpine, and Triple Lakes.

Denali here we come!

By the end of this Challenge, you'll have finished the equivalent of a mid-distance sprint race. 

Click the button below and join us on the trails of Denali!

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Are You Up For A Challenge?

With limited travel options at the moment, we all have to exercise our imagination a little bit.

So, take a journey with me...

You've just arrived at Minchumina Airport in Alaska, 64 miles from Denali National Park.

You excitedly pop open the rear hatch of your rental car, letting your dog bound in (tail wagging). Luggage in the back seat, map in the front. 

With happiness bubbling inside of you, you buckle up, slide the key in the ignition...holding your breath for a split second, not quite able to believe your luck.

All those dreams of visiting Alaska, all those months of planning, and time training to prepare you for whatever the trail has in store.

And now...

You're here!

It doesn't get any better than this!

So, together let's put that car in drive and head for the park. You've waited long enough. 

Denali here we come!
Our Denali Challenge is our first 50 mile Challenge. A good distance for beginner and intermediate mushers alike. 

If you're up for a challenge, here's what you'll need to get started:
  • Driver Id: Sign up with Wheel Dog to get your Driver ID (which is how we track your miles);
  • Register For The Challenge: Click the little register button at the top (or bottom) of the page to sign up for the Challenge;
  • Learn How: If you're brand new (and having trouble finding local dog sledding classes) check out our "Learn To Mush" section and sign up for one of our Drivers Ed courses;
  • Equipment: This sport doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment, but you do need some basics. Get yourself and your dog set up with the right gear to ensure you're both comfortable (and stay injury free)!
If you've already got your equipment, you have your Driver ID in hand, and you've got the training skills needed to get started (or have signed up for one of our Drivers Ed classes); then it's time to enter the Challenge!

It's About More Than Just Dog Sledding

While the focus of our Challenge is dog sledding, there's a whole lot more to the Challenge than that!
  • How to get your dog to burn their energy, even if you can't keep up: Most of our dogs are more athletic than we are, dog sledding is a great way for them to burn that energy while dragging you along for the fun
  • 7 ways to exercise your dog: Skijor, Bikejor, Scooter, Canicross, Kicksled, Dog Sled, or Dryland Mush
  • How to eliminate boredom: While you slave away at work, your dog is dreaming up creative ways to keep busy. Dog sledding is a great way to tire out their body and mind...and keep them out of trouble
  • Why running makes your dog less excited: A lot of alternative ways of exercising our dogs tend to get them excited and hyper active. Increasing their stress level...even if it's a positive stress! Dog sledding is a great active sport, but releases rather than creates adrenaline.
  • ​The truth about reactive dogs: It can be hard to find activities to keep our reactive or fearful dogs active without setting them off. Pick a nice quiet trail and get them active again
  • When it’s ok to make your dog get a job: Many of our dogs need a job to keep them out of trouble. A lot of dogs really thrive when given a job to focus on. And, you'll love the sense of accomplishment you get as well
  • You need a husky, right? Wrong!: Our Challenges are for all breeds and skill levels. No husky required...though of course they'll have a great time as well!
  • Where you can find new dog sledding friends: Share your enthusiasm and encourage each other to keep going by staying active in the Challenge Facebook group
  • You should never compare your success to others: Like most things in life it doesn't pay to compare your success to others. That's especially true in our Challenges. Each team is made up of different sized teams, different experience levels, and of course different vehicles. All of which makes speed times vary. So never feel bad looking at someone else's run times. What you might not know is they are running an eight dog team with a dryland cart, while you're doing Canicross with your one-dog team
  • Say goodbye to being frustrated by leash pulling: In fact you'll likely instantly be upset they don't pull more!
  • What to do if you need a little extra motivation to keep active: Even the best of us struggle with motivation sometimes. Our Challenge format means you always have that little push you need to get out there and get one more run in this week
  • Do you battle nerves when competing?: Our Challenges are a great way to compete, without the pressure you experience at a regular race, trial, or show. 

What's Included In The Challenge?

Now it's time to talk about what you've all been waiting for - the prizes! 
Challenger Kit:
As soon as you sign up we'll send you your Challenger Kit. All our participants will receive:
  • Participant Certificate: You'll be sent your digital participant certificate once the Challenge begins
  • Race Bib: You'll also receive your digital race bib, customized with your Driver ID race number
  • Facebook Banner: You'll get access to our Challenge Facebook Banner. So you can share your journey with friends and family. Feel free to share it on your own website or blog as well
  • Facebook Profile Badge: If you'd like to change your Facebook Profile photo to the Challenge badge you'll be able to share your dog sledding passion with everyone you know!
  • Instagram Badge: They say a picture's worth a thousand words, so we wanted you to have an Instagram badge to share your Challenge as well
Finisher Prizes:
Of course the real point to the Challenge is to push yourself past your comfort zone! Finish the Challenge, and revel in your team's accomplishment. At the end of the Challenge we'll rush you your prizes:
  • Custom Challenge Medal: The prized possession of all our Challengers is our Challenge medal. We can't wait to get it in your hands, and hung on your wall of fame!
  • Finisher's Certificate: We know you like to keep mementos when you and your dog earn a Title, complete a class, or in our case finish the Challenge. So get your scrapbook ready!
  • Finisher's Facebook Banner: Tell the world how smart your dog is! When you finish your Challenge, you need to let the world know!

Challenge Workbook

As a bonus we're giving you a Challenge Workbook!

While we track all your miles for you, you'll want a way to track your goals. Note favorite trails to run on. And, of course track your personal records!

Our digital Challenge Workbook is an easy way for you to do that. 

Simply download the workbook, print it off at home, and start recording those personal records!

Here's What You Need To Do Next

The important question now - where should you start?

First, you'll need to sign up for your Driver ID (if you don't have one already).

Then, simply register for the Challenge using the button at the bottom of this page.

We'll send you your Challenger Kit, links to the Facebook group, and a whole lot more.

But, it all starts with registering for the Challenge!

But, First...

Before we go any further this seems like a good time to address some common concerns. 

If you still have questions at this point, it makes sense to answer them now.

My dog isn't a Husky or Malamute, will they be able to do it?

While it may be easier to teach a dog that has inherited a desire to pull, it isn't necessary. In fact, in 1989 John Suter ran poodles in the Iditarod (for the first time). At local mushing days we've seen all breeds and sizes: Pit bulls, Greyhounds, Retrievers, Doberman, and even Dachshunds. Any breed can participate. Of course, smaller dogs might not provide as much pulling power, but that doesn't mean you both can't enjoy the sport. 

My dog can be reactive to other dogs, can we still participate?

Dog sledding races might be difficult for a reactive or fearful dog to participate in, but there's no reason they can't participate in our Challenge program. Since trail selection is up to you, you'll just need to choose your trail wisely. But, that's one reason this is a great choice for a reactive dog. Pick a quieter trail, where other dogs are on leash. Allow for plenty of passing room, and work on a solid "on-by" command. The more your dog is "into" their work pulling, the less they will focus on other trail users.

My dog isn't young, are they too old to try it?

A dog of any age can learn to mush (take it slow with young dogs). But our older companions will get a lot of benefit from learning something new with you. They'll love the one-on-one time they get. Like any sport, you might have to work on their conditioning with them. Just take it slow, building on their current fitness level.

My dog has arthritis / hip issues can they play?

You might be surprised but pulling sports can be very beneficial for dogs with hip problems. Sledding (especially when done slowly) can really help strengthen their muscles that support the joints. Certainly watch for signs of discomfort, and build their strength carefully and slowly. But they certainly can benefit.

For dogs dealing with arthritis, if they are currently in pain from the arthritis, it wouldn't be a good choice. Focus on working with your veterinarian to make them more comfortable in their everyday life first. Once you get their medication under control, they too can play. Again, watch for signs of discomfort (slowing down, limping, etc), and stop for the day. Once they recover, back off on the difficultly level, but don't be afraid to start up again. Your sledding journey with them, might consist of a 20 minute Canicross walk. But, that's no reason not to include them. 

It doesn't snow where I live, can I still participate?

Of course! Most of the dog sledding sports don't require snow. Your real concern will be temperature.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't heavily exercise your dog if it's warmer than 50F (10C). Each dog is different so rely on your own judgement, not this rule of thumb. But, it should give you a base line to evaluate your own dog. A dog with a heavy coat, or who's prone to over heating shouldn't head out unless it's much cooler. If your dog is happy as can be in -40 degree temperatures, rolling around outside in the snow naked for hours...maybe don't go out in warmer temperatures.

If you both still want to be active in warmer weather, you can try going out for a Canicross walk instead. If right now you'd walk your dog for 20 minutes outside in high temperatures, try a Canicross walk for the same time (or less) instead. Keep the weight and speed that you're asking for down. 

It is very cold where I live and my dog gets cold easily, do I have to wait till the summer to start?

No, you don't have to wait. You just need a plan. Even thin skinned or light-haired breeds don't usually need anything to keep them warm when they are working. Once they get running (and cold weather seems to make them happy to do that!), their body will naturally warm up. The big danger to them is when you stop running. Be sure to bring a coat to throw on before and after to keep them warm. 

If you still feel your dog needs it, there are specialty coats you can purchase and leave on while they are running.

You might also want to check out lightweight nylon dog sledding booties to keep the snow from balling up in their feet...and protect from pad damage on icy trails. 

Ok, I understand that lots of dogs and people can learn how to sled, but what if I don't have the skills to teach my dog to do it?

A totally rational concern! Most of us recreational mushers don't have family or friends we've seen sledding for ages. We haven't inherited or witnessed training to give us the skills we need. So, what are you to do?

It can be hard to find a local dog sledding class, so we've created online training lessons to help you get started.

They are geared towards new drivers. Drivers with unconventional dog sledding breeds. And of course, towards people brand new to the sport! 

Be sure to check out our Learn to Mush page and sign up for one of out Drivers Ed classes. These classes have helped many new mushers get a solid start in the sport...and most importantly have fun while doing it.

What if my dog is in better shape than I am?

This is true for most of us I think! Our dogs will happily dash around a field in knee deep snow for hours. Us on the other hand...

Actually, dog sledding is an ideal way for you to keep up with them. Bikejoring can be a great sport if that sounds like your situation. The bike is easy for your dog to pull - allowing them to be as active as they want to be. It has great braking power compared to the other sledding sports. Bikes are easy on your knees, and allow you to pedal as much as your able. 
If you have more questions about how the Challenge works, please check out our Challenge FAQ section.

You Don't Want To Miss Out!

If you're new to our Challenge program, then I want to warn you we only open each Challenge for a short period of time (so we can focus on making sure our Drivers have an amazing experience.

So, having said that this Challenge is only open for registration from January 25th - February 7th.

Drivers are able to start logging their miles starting February 1st.

So, the longer you wait the further you'll fall behind your fellow Challengers.

It isn't a race, so you don't need to feel like you have to finish first, but we find that Drivers who don't start logging miles at the "mass start," tend to get left behind. Those who start logging right away tend to be the most likely to finish the Challenge.

How To Register

If your excited and ready to get started, it's time to register!

Before your registration in the Challenge is accepted you'll need to sign up as a member to receive your Driver ID. You can register for the Challenge here first, but then be sure to head over to the Membership page right away to get your ID number. 

Assuming you have (or will have) your ID number, simply click the button below to register for the Challenge. 

Get your credit card handy, fill in the form on the next page, and enter the Challenge!

So, that's it, hit the little button below and register for the Challenge today.

We can't wait to have you in the league!

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