By Darren Lum
Just like the hundreds of jubilant students across the county enjoying their snow day Tanya McCready DeBruin was also excited for the falling snow outside her window last week but for a different reason.
This year’s winter weather is greatly anticipated for the 14th installment of the Haliburton Highlands Dogsled Derby on March 5 and 6 at the Pinestone Resort which is organized by McCready DeBruin an owner and operator with husband Hank of Winterdance Dogsled Tours.
“Gosh I don’t even know what to say this year whether to think it’s a flash in the pan or maybe winter is actually finally kicking in but when I look at the long range forecast it looks like we’ve got at least two weeks. For Winterdance it’s great and for the Dogsled Derby it’s amazing so I’ll take whatever will come” she said.
In the past the event has faced cancellation and the threat of postponement due to unseasonably warm conditions.
After the disappointing withdrawal for her husband from the Yukon Quest recently the scheduled event was a welcom distraction for McCready DeBruin. The planning for the derby was something they started as soon as they returned from the race.
“We got something to plan and to run for so it definitely helps us get going and back on our feet a little quicker I think” she said.
Witness the power of the dogs pulling competitors at speeds up to 30 kilometres per hour in dogsleds or on Nordic skis for skijoring where competitors are harnessed to a dog or two with a leash.
McCready DeBruin invites the public to the free two-day spectacle that features close to 100 mushers skijorers and their exhuberant dogs who will be barking and jumping to start their respective races on groomed course routes on the property of the Pinestone on County Road 21 just outside Haliburton.
This event is a world cup sanctioned event by the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS).
The start/finish will be at the front of the Pinestone closest to the manmade pond allowing spectators to see a lot of the action.
The four-dog mushers and one-dog skijor racers will compete on the four-mile course while the eight- and six-dog mushers including the two-dog skijorers will compete on the six mile course.
The youth (up to 17 years) and novice (beginners and sport rookies) racers will complete a two mile course. The youngest competitors will get their opportunity to race in the kid and mutt category competitors who are aged two to 10. They must bring their own dog to compete.
“They’re always the crowd favourite because they just do a 100 metre dash from the start line. They’re always a blast to watch” she said.
Other than the Kid and Mutt race at 12:45 on Saturday spectators are encouraged to leave pet animals at home for the safety of the mushers.
“If you’re not racing better to leave them at home” she said.
Anyone interesting in volunteering can contact Winterdance’s Barb Bohlin.
“If there is anyone out there that wants to call and volunteer I’m sure she’ll find [you] something to do. Volunteers are always welcome” she said.
She appreciates the support by the event’s long-time hosts the Pinestone which has hosted the event more than 10 years.
The resort is not only the venue for the races but is also opening its property to visitors.
The skating area will be available and plans are underway to provide a tobogganing hill.
For both nights there will be live entertainment (Jeff Moulton on Friday and Gord Kidd on Saturday) in the Pinestone at the Highlander Bar. No cover for either.
These will get people “just a little bit more engaged as far as things going on to keep people entertained for sure. Bigger and better things are planned for our 15th anniversary [of the Derby]” she said referring to next year.
For more information and the itinerary for the event see www.haliburtondogsledderby.com/watch.htm.