The Grand Mesa Summit Challenge sled dog races held last weekend named as the event's beneficiary sponsor the children and teen program of Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.
The Grand Mesa's Mesa Top facility was the site for the seventh running of the event which at 10,500 feet elevation is billed by organizers as "the highest international sled dog races in North America . . . on the Earth's biggest flat top mountain."
Over 30 entrants had pre-registered for the event, which this year is one of the regional races that can help qualify competitors and their teams for participation in the World Championship races to be held at Fairbanks, Alaska, this year.
There were a few late entrants in several different competitive classes that brought the number of participants to about 40, race organizers said. There were local competitors and a mix of entrants from the West Slope and other parts of Colorado. There was one team each from Idaho and Utah.
According to event organizers, "Sled dog races on the Grand Mesa National Forest started in 2005. Since the first event, the field of 29 mushers has grown to over 40 teams. The races are sprints of four to 12 miles long." Both sled dog teams and skijoring where a skier is pulled along by one or two dogs, are part of the events.
The Grand Mesa Summit challenge has attracted a number of local sponsors and a local fan base of spectators was on hand last weekend to view the action. Spectators have the opportunity to see world championship competitors in the sport including John Perry, Fritz Howard, Scott Aimone, Steph Dwyer, Katie Harris and Janet Saxon.
Local competitors this year from Montrose were Teresa Petterson, Laurie Brandt and Lynn Whipple, a winner in last year's 4- and 6-dog events.
Competing from Paonia were Kale Casey and Michael Watson.
Event organizers gave a special thanks to Ken Simpson and the Delta SnoKrusers snowmobile club and the Grand Mesa Lodge for trail grooming and other support for the event.