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Warm Winter Cancels Minnesota’s Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

Minnesota’s annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will not be held this year, per CBS News Minnesota. The organizers made this decision on Tuesday, Jan. 2, as a result of an unusually mild winter and persistent lack of snow. The sled dog race was supposed to begin on January 28, 2024.

The organizers noted that it was certainly a hard decision. In their words, “With concerns over the weather, safety of the dogs, mushers, and volunteers, it was the only decision that we felt comfortable with.”

Board President Mike Keyport shared with MPR News that they decided to cancel the race through an 8 to 2 vote. “We have people on the board that have been involved with this race for quite a number of years.” He further added, “And you could tell in their voices that this – and myself included – it was a tough, emotional decision.” Insufficient snowfall has led to Beargrease cancellation twice before as well — in 2007 and 2012. 

2024 would have marked Beargrease’s 40th running

The 2024 event would have been the 40th edition of the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Keyport said, “… We really wanted this 40th running to be kind of a bigger event, and this last-minute planning might not allow us to do that.” He added, “So by postponing the 40th running until next January, we’ll have more time to plan, more time to fundraise.”

The race features full-distance teams covering a 300-mile trail from close to Duluth to the Grand Portage finish line. Race officials stated there were considerations about organizing the event later in winter. However, the uncertain weather conditions pose a challenge and rescheduling the race would complicate finding an available date due to clashes with other races.

Keyport highlighted the potential complications of delaying the sled dog race sometime later, like in March. He pointed out the difficulties it would pose for race volunteers, particularly veterinarians, who have to take leave from work. Furthermore, he explained that snow becomes softer in late winter, leading to challenging conditions for dogs and mushers. 

Even though the race can’t happen this year, there will still be numerous fundraising events. The 40th running of the Minnesota Beargrease Marathon will now be held in Jan. 2025. 

The Gunflint Mail Run, another annual sled dog race happening in northeast Minnesota, was supposed to take place on Jan. 6. However, their organizers have postponed the event to Feb. 10 due to the same reason of snow shortage. 

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