A couple of outdoor winter sports will be prominently featured this weekend at the Vita and Area Winter Festival. They are dog sled racing and skijoring, which involves skiers being pulled by dogs in a race. Dave Hochman of Carlowrie, near St. Malo, is a musher who was instrumental in getting dog sled racing made part of the festival. He notes is part of a group of mushers striving to keep the sport going.
"There was a time when we a pretty vibrant circuit in southern Manitoba and it's been depleted. The Festival du Voyageur no longer has sled dog races. We are a few mushers in the area who decided that we wanted to rejuvenate the sport. I approached Lucie Maynard (CAO of Stuartburn) and we talked about hosting a sled dog race in Vita. And, it's taken off very well."
Hochman relates a story about how he got into dog sled racing almost 40 years ago.
"I started in 1979, in grade seven, with one dog delivering papers. I went to the Festival du Voyageur sled dog race and saw there was a three-dog class. Living in the city at that time, you could have three dogs in the city. So I got a dog right at that race and she just loved to pull. I figured, instead of taking the dog for a walk, if I added two more, they could take me for a walk."
Hochman urges people to come out and watch the races. He notes, for many people, sled dogs look different than what they expect.
"The breed is called Alaskan Husky but they're not what people think they are. They're crossed with domestic breeds like Greyhound, Irish Setter, and German Short-Haired Pointer. Most of the crosses were done 100 years ago so it's not a breed, it's a strain. They don't look like what people think. They look just like regular ally dogs. They're lean because of the Greyhound cross. They're lean, mean running machines."
The dog sled races will take place at Vita on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 and 2:30.
The skijoring competition will take place Saturday and Sunday at 10 in the morning.