Let the Race Begin
1961-2011 CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF SLED DOG RACING IN OREGON
While talking to Dorothy Christensen about the first race in Oregon in 1961, I was surprised at how much work she and her husband, Art Christensen put into a race that was going to be attended by only a few club members. At the time the club was called Northwest Sled Dog Club which was founded in 1959 by The Christensen family of Jefferson and The Koolger family of Reedsport, the name of the club was changed in 1962 to the Cascade Sled Dog Club because the sled dog group in Washington named themselves the Northwest Sled Dog Association. At the time forming a club was easy to do, but in order to be an association you had to register with the state and since the Washington group had gone to all that trouble it was easier for the Oregon group to change their name.
By 1961 Art and Dorothy had been to several races in Montana and California and knew what was necessary to build a race that would last, sponsors and a location that could put in a packed trail. There were 14 advertisements in the first program, everything from; Yukon Kennels (their own business) to the Meier and Frank Company. But the largest supporter was Ed Thurston of Bend who was the owner and manager of Hoo Doo Ski Bowl. The Santiam Pass had the necessary snow and Ed had the packers. The out and back trail started at the edge of the highway went out the new road that had been put in to get to Big Lake and ended back at Hoo Doo Ski Bowl.
Of course if you are going to have a race you need to have a set of rules.
The rules committee of the Northwest Sled Dog Club has tried to limit the race rules to a very few. It is assumed that all drivers will abide by the unwritten policy of good sportsmanship. It is also assumed that any driver who enters his sled team in N.W.S.D.C. races does not; use drugs to stimulate his dogs; abuse his dogs on the trail; monopolize the trail; have unmanageable dogs; run more dogs than he can control; run different dogs in the second heat; trade starting positions with any other driver.
1. Any dog or dog team which has had a recent virulent infection will not be allowed to enter the races or the race area.
2. Starting positions will be drawn at a designated time before the race. An official will draw for any driver not present. A team's time will begin at the time drawn for its start whether or not the team has left the starting line. In the event there is a second day of heats the order of starting for the second day will be the reverse of the finishing order of the first day.
3. The driver of each team entered in the N.W.S.D.C. races must have at least one helper. At the race start the helper, or helpers, may assist the driver within the 100 foot boundary only. The driver must cross the finish line unassisted. The time will end when driver, sled, and team have crossed the finish line.
The first day of racing was Saturday, February 18th; the weather was not much different than what we deal with today, rain, sleet and some snow showers. The events were to start at 1:00 PM with the Junior race (age 9 to 12), then the peewee race (age 3 to 8), followed by the women’s five mile race.
There was one small problem, Art and Ed had gone out in the morning with the two snow packing machine to put in the trail but had not returned by 1:00 PM. So, Dorothy took command of the situation and got the race started. It was 4:00 PM before Art finally hiked out of the woods. He and Ed had been six or seven miles from the road when one of the snow packers became bogged down.
Driving to first place in the women’s race was Nila Koolger of Reedsport with three Alaskan Huskies in a time of 31 minutes. Second was Dorothy Christensen of Jefferson using Samoyeds and a Siberian and third was Jerry Headley of Jefferson using Samoyeds and a Siberian. In the peewee class Jimmy Morgan, 8, of Marion was first followed by Eric Christensen, 3, of Jefferson and Susy Morgan, 7, of Marion. The Junior race was won by Johnny Powell, 9, of Salem, followed by Nila Koolger, 12, of Reedsport and Shella Walker, 11, of Salem.
On Sunday the weather was blustery and snowy for the 10 mile men’s race. Coming in first was Art Christensen of Jefferson with a time of 71 minutes using three Siberians and a Samoyed, Casey Koolger was second in a time of 77 minutes using five Alaskan Huskies and in third place was Will Koolger with a time of 105 minutes using four Alaskan Huskies.
To promote the sport and the 2nd annual Hoo Doo race Art and Will Koolger did a promotional stunt on January 6, 1962 by taking the mail from Hoo Doo Ski Bowl 20 miles to Sisters, this was the first time mail had been delivered by dog team in the state of Oregon. The Hoo Doo race continued until 1965 with the biggest entry being in that year with 24 teams, plus the Junior and Peewee classes. Mushers came from all three west coast states. In order to be closer to hotels and restaurants the race moved to Sisters in 1966.
By 1964 Oregon had three races taking place throughout the Cascades. In January it was Hoo Doo at Santiam Pass, then in February it was Mount Hood and the season ended in March at Mount Bachelor.
Credit- Lance Christiansen