Local team in training for Iditarod Sled Dog Race
KIRKWOOD – Gardnerville native Chris Miller can be found at Kirkwood Mountain Resort most winter days doing what he loves best, working with his 21 Siberian Huskies.
Although he insists on calling it his hobby, Miller and his dogs aren’t just working for the fun of it, they’re training for a goal- the Trail Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
Miller said he’s three years away from competing in the Super Bowl of canine sled races that covers 1,100 miles from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
Making money by offering sled dog rides at Kirkwood, Miller is hoping for some larger financial support to place him in the Alaskan race.
“It’s going to take a lot more sponsorship for me to do it,” Miller said, estimating a cost of $16,000 to compete in the Iditarod.
Miller has been competing in local races for six years. He started with one dog as a pet and acquired more over time, learning the ropes through the experience of his first race in Mammoth.
Miller trains his dogs on his Carson Valley ranch in the summer by running them behind a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle.
“Each dog runs 300 miles in the dirt before they even reach their first snowfall,” he said.
Ten to 14 dogs pull up to 650 pounds of riders five times a day at Kirkwood.
Ranging in age from 3 to 8 years old, the dogs are relatively small, averaging about 60 pounds.
“They’re a medium size dog, but they’ll take you to heaven and back,” Miller said with grin.
Yelling out commands like gee (right), haw (left) and hike (go), Miller said he strategically places his smaller, female dogs in front to pull the rest of the team in the right direction.
“I put the stronger, more aggressive dogs in the back, which are usually the males,” he said. “The female dogs are in the front because they’re more loyal and understand the direction better.”
Miller’s next race will be in February in Hope Valley.
“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “I love being out with the dogs and nature and trying to survive the elements. The best part of it is the peacefulness and serenity of it all.”
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