Hard work and some natural talent has paid off for a local musher. Aaron Peck of Elevation Dogs has won the Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race’s 12 dog division, a title he also earned in 2011. In addition to 1,500 miles of conditioning, Peck says his lead dogs deserve much of the credit for the win.
“Four of them are just interchangeable at the front. [Dakar, Big Red, Camo, and Khaki] set quite a pace, and as long as the other guys can kind of just tuck in behind and keep up, then we’re off and running, so I just think the natural ability of those dogs played the biggest role in the win.”
This year’s race was 270 kilometres from Elk Ridge to La Ronge against 10 other mushers. The event normally starts just north of Prince Albert, but poor conditions caused it to be shortened. Despite last minute changes, Peck says he was confident going in.
“Long distance racing can throw so many variables at you; whether the dogs health over the long period of time, you could hurt yourself out there, you could break your sled,” he explains. “There was a couple teams I knew would be competitive, or I thought they were going to be, but they didn’t end up being.”
Peck finished the race with seven dogs, after leaving a few behind at check stops later in the marathon two-day race. He knows some people don’t approve of sled dog racing, but he argues they should keep an open mind.
“It is a wonderful sporting event and it’s a wonderful lifestyle; dog mushers love their dogs. It’s something that some people out there, maybe in more urban areas, don’t know a lot about and there has been some negative vibes coming from different sources in recent times.”
That includes a documentary called Sled Dogs that handlers call a misleading look at the industry following a cull in Whistler B.C. in 2011. Peck and his wife take care of 30 dogs from puppies to elderly at their property east of Grande Prairie, and says they consider them family.
“These are working dogs, and they love to work; they love to run,” he maintains. “If you could only see it, how bad they want to run; it’s incredible.”
The last time Peck and his team did the Canadian Challenge was when he won in 2011. Since then he has focused on the Wyoming Stage Stop Race and competed in the Iditarod in 2013.