Race to the Sky is Montana’s premier winter sporting event, and recognized as one of the most challenging and beautiful sled dog races in the world. Our Races are a test of physical strength, mental toughness, teamwork, and a special bond between man and his canine friends. Working together, teams negotiate the trail through Montana’s scenic Rocky Mountains.
The races were organized first as Montana’s Governor’s Cup Sled Dog Race in 1986 and we ran the first 500 mile continuous race in February of that year. Since that year, Race to the Sky has been an Iditarod qualifier.
In 1989, we became Montana Sled Dog, Inc. Each February, since then, MSDI has been hosting this distance race. We have gone through several distance changes, including adding a 250 mile race, a 300 mile race and changing the 500 mile race to a 350 mile continuous format race.
We now organize three races “within” a race. We have the 300 mile distance race, the 100 mile junior race and the 100 mile adult race.
International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association veterinarians take care of the dogs during the race. These highly skilled veterinarians know racing sled dogs and are experts in their field. We are grateful for their assistance each year.
There have been many changes over the years but one things remains the same—the desire of the sled dogs to run! We use multi-use trails and once the dogs start, they are quiet and focused on their job. It’s what they are born to do.
Race to the Sky is a Montana tradition and its supporters, volunteers and sponsors have been there since the beginning. It is the volunteers who make the race happen each February and without them, it wouldn’t take place.
The Board of Directors is a volunteer group that meets year-round to make decisions about the race, host events, and secure sponsors for the race. It is a big time commitment but board members have a can do attitude!
Montana Sled Dog, Inc., a 501(c)(3) is a nonprofit corporation under the I.R.S. Code and we welcome your partnership. Become a part of our awesome team of volunteers! We would love to talk to you about becoming a sponsor, volunteer, or race supporter.
A small group of sled dog enthusiasts got together in the fall of 1985 and formulated a plan to bring distance sled dog racing to Montana. This first race, the Montana Governor’s Cup 500 Sled Dog Race, took place in February 1986 and ran from Helena to Lincoln, Ovando, Seeley Lake, Condon and back to Helena, making it the first 500 mile continuous sled dog race in Montana.
Jack Beckstrom was one of the original founders of Race to the Sky. It was his vision to bring distance racing to Montana and for the next 34 years, he worked tirelessly to make sure this race thrived, attracting dog mushers from all over the lower 48, Canada, England, Scotland and Alaska. The race changed its name to Race to the Sky in 1990 depicting the elevation climbs almost to the sky, the mountains and great scenery.
He competed in the 500 mile race multiple times. Beckstrom was on the Board of Directors, a race marshal numerous times, treasurer, speaker for every Race to the Sky Dog Mushing Symposium and supported it financially as a sponsor every year of the race.
Race to the Sky has always been an Iditarod qualifier even though distances have changed over the years from 500 miles to 350 miles to currently 300.
Two 100 mile races were added including a junior race. It is a challenging race but one Beckstrom was always proud to be part of. He loved sled dogs, dog mushing and teaching mushers about proper nutrition and training for their sled dogs.
Having good dog care was very important to Beckstrom during his mushing career. The race has designated that each year, the Jack Beckstrom Best Cared for Team Award will to be given in his honor for both the 100 mile and 300 mile races.
Race to the Sky is a Montana tradition and one that families love to be part of each February. The dogs are the heart of this race, the volunteers are the hands of the race but Jack Beckstrom was most definitely the soul of Race to the Sky.
The Eagle Cap Extreme, Idaho Sled Dog Challenge, and Montana’s Race to the Sky sled dog races are excited to partner together for the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown!
Those mushers and their four-legged athletes who run in the same category in all three races are eligible to compete for the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown title. The classes of race include the following:
Eight Dog Class
· Eagle Cap Extreme 100 mile race
· Race to the Sky 100 mile race
· Idaho Sled Dog Challenge 150 mile race
Twelve Dog Class
· Eagle Cap Extreme 200 mile race
· Race to the Sky 300 mile race
· Idaho Sled Dog Challenge 300 mile race
We look forward to hosting a Rocky Mountain Triple Crown Symposium in fall 2020 in addition to the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown title. Please keep an eye out on our website for more information.
About Eagle Cap Extreme
The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race, originally run in January 2004, runs annually through the rugged Wallow Mountains in Northeastern Oregon the week after Martin Luther King Jr Day. All races start at Ferguson Ski Ridge just outside Joseph, OR and include 200-mile and 100-mile continuous races as well as a 31-mile, 2-day mid-distance race and a 22-mile, 2-day junior’s race. More information can be found at www.eaglecapextreme.com.
About Idaho Sled Dog Challenge
Originally organized as the McCall Ultra Sled Dog Race, the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge winds through the West Central Mountains on the Payette and Boise National Forest. Departing from McCall, ID, the IDSC includes a concurrent 150-mile race as well as a 300-mile race. More information can be found at http://idahosleddogchallenge.com.
About Montana’s Race to the Sky
Originally organized as the Montana’s Governor’s Cup Sled Dog Race in 1986 as a 500-mile race, this event has evolved into a 300 mile distance race, a 100 mile junior continuous race as well as a 100 mile adult continuous format race. Teams work together to negotiate the trails through Montana’s scenic Rocky Mountains. The race is always the second weekend of February with pre-race events in Lincoln and starting in Lincoln and running to Condon and back to Lincoln. More information can be found at http://racetothesky.org or questions to email@example.com.
Race to the Sky commemorates the Camp Rimini War Dog Reception and Training Center just outside Helena and has been since 1989.
In 1943, Montana’s Camp Rimini became the training ground for 800 sled dogs, 100 pack dogs, and about 125 soldiers. The mission was to set up a training camp for the invasion of Norway, one of only two such camps in the United States. They needed sled dogs that could navigate the snowy parts of Norway with equipment to aid the soldiers. They also needed soldiers that knew how to train dogs and some that could speak fluent Norwegian.
Nestled near the Continental Divide just a few miles from the capital city of Helena, it was the perfect place to train sled dogs, perform training maneuvers, and witness the harsh winters. The camp was in operation for almost a year and a half when the invasion of Norway was cancelled but the efforts of the dogs and soldiers were then used in search and rescue operations. They were sent to Newfoundland, Baffinland, Labrador, Greenland, and even Alaska to retrieve equipment and supplies from downed airplanes in remote areas. All tolled, they retrieved thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the U.S. Government and were a legend in dog mushing history. They also brought back soldiers, some alive and others were brought by for a proper burial by their families.
This unusual training camp is an important part of the Race to the Sky’s history. Each February, we commemorate the soldiers and sled dogs who served during World War II in this remote area of Montana.
It takes an army of volunteers to put this race on, but it is a great place for today’s mushers to run their dogs and remember what the dogs and soldiers did for all of us.
Today, Race to the Sky is 36 years old, and a Montana tradition. It’s supporters, volunteers and sponsors have been there since its birth. It is the volunteers who make the race happen each February and without them, it wouldn’t take place.
Race to the Sky has two educational trunks that are used around race time in local schools. They contain a miniature sled, harnesses, ganglines, dog boots, dog jacket, snow hook, a collar, a video on the vet check,, the movie Call of the Wild 3D (race is viewed in the movie and race footage is in movie), and other items that dog mushers use including a gangline (or towline) that the students can use to “pretend” they are a dog team, headlight, wrist wrap and educational book. We keep them in Helena and, for now, they cannot be transported by mail because the cost is prohibited. They are large trunks and have been damaged in the past in shipment.
An educational booklet is available for Pdf download . loaded with photos, games, crossword puzzles, stories and artwork. The book discusses teamwork and gives students science, math, social studies and writing assignments to go along with Race to the Sky. It is geared toward kindergarten – middle school students. It has been used by many schools and is free to use. Please e-mail us if you are using any part of the book so we can document where it is used.
Racing teams may also be available for school visits on Friday morning (same day as the vet check in Lincoln). School visits are on a first come, first serve basis starting at 9 a.m. and usually last about 45-60 minutes at the most. We book early for school visits. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Students are encouraged to come to the vet check and schedule a time with one of our International Sled Dog
Vets. Everyone is welcome at the vet check, starts, checkpoints and the finish, including awards ceremonies. School visits are the highlight of the year for many schools around Helena. Mushers, over the years, have done school visits in every elementary school in Helena, both traditional and nontraditional, several preschools, junior high schools and even a college course or two. The schools use the Race to the Sky Educational Book (written by Pam Beckstrom) as their basis to teach the students about teamwork. They quickly realize they are only a good as their weakest link.
The musher talks about his specific breed of dog, their athletic ability, how they are trained and taken care of, and what their goal is for Race to the Sky. We encourage the students to think about questions they would like to ask the dog musher. Dog mushers are very proud of their dogs and the training they have received. Every dog is as different as every student and most students end up with their “favorite” dog. The Race flies in International Sled Dog Veterinarians to give each dog a thorough physical before they can run Race to the Sky and to assist during the race. Race to the Sky is challenging and the veterinarians want to know that the dog is ready for such terrain.