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Aliy Z

5 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2007 :  5:18:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Racing sled dogs is an expensive sport. Even Jeff King knows that. The ITC definitely knows that. If anyone has ever been to a board meeting they would know that the penny pinchers sit at the table and point blank ask the board, “Where can we cut costs?” Just as we all sit at our computers and ask “How do we race for less?” sled dogs is an expensive sport. The ITC could run the race cheaper. Let’s see where do they cut costs? Too many vets - cut that in half. And they are supplying the dog medications – that’s way too generous. Too much straw at each checkpoint - perhaps ˝ bale per team is sufficient. Too many trailbreakers - this race is too fast anyway. Too many markers - cut that in half and we’ll really make it interesting. But the ITC board is actually “pro musher”. They want to see racers do well out there. sled dogs is an expensive sport. It’s not that you can’t race the Iditarod any cheaper then SilverBelle’s outline, it’s just that you shouldn’t. There are racers that run it cheaper. You will see them as they rummage through the leftover Food Drop Bags so they can feed their team, and you see them asking to “borrow” dog blankets because they didn’t know it would be this cold, or to “borrow” wrist wraps because 4 dogs need wrapped wrists not just 2, or to “borrow” dog booties because they didn’t realize that they’d have to camp between Kaltag and Unalakleet (Swingley never did!), or to “borrow” drop cables because they have to drop more dogs then they thought they would.

When you ask, “How do we do this cheaper?” Whether it’s the ITC or the racers, who does it really effect? The dogs. And isn’t that the antithesis of what this entire sport is about? So, don’t ask how you can skimp or how you can cut costs or how you can “just get by”. You should ask how you can do it right.

I bet in 1976 all of Joe May’s friends thought that he was nuts to spend “just” $1500 on a sled dog race.

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297 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2007 :  6:06:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Nice to hear from someone who is in the know. We are fortunate to have input from an accomplished musher! Hope to hear more replys from you Aliy.

Bob Wright
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Doug R.

230 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2007 :  7:41:11 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I don't think that any one is expecting the mushers or the ITC to "skimp" to the point of hurting the race, mushers, or the dogs. I just wonder why the ITC can't get the extra money they need from extra sponsorships? Why do they pass the burden on to mushers that have already tapped every sponsorship dollar that is available to them? I'll tell you why. The ITC wants a $1,000,000 purse. Pure and simple. When the prize money goes up we'll all know why they hiked the entry fee. Do the math. Eighty mushers at $5,000 increases the gross to the ITC by $256,000. That puts the purse at over $1,000,000. Personally, I resent this elitist attitude. It has nothing to do with asking the ITC to cut or to skimp. By the way, is the ITC running in the red? Does anyone know? (One place to cut, quit giving out $1049 to people just because they finish. There's nearly an extra $35,000, enough to cover the straw expense that Rick Swenson was so worried about. Another place to cut, reduce all prize money. Then we'll see everyone's true colors.)

Edited by - Doug R. on 07/31/2007 7:44:38 PM
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dog artist

41 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2007 :  8:39:49 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Reviewed this topic for clarity, and then grabbed the minutes from the ITC meeting at
Doug, where did you get the information that the fee would jump to $5,000 in 2009, because everything in the notes says fees would POSSIBLY (it was just discussed, not a voted item) jump an additional $1,000 in 2009, so go up to $4,000? The wording makes it unclear if the meaning was an additional $1,000 increase in 2010, for a fee that year of $5,000. And again, it is just part of the discussion....LOTS of things get discussed in those meetings that get ruminated on and never see action.
Have you heard the ITC state that their goal is a $1,000,000 purse? That would seem a rather arbitrary goal for an organization that is trying to be responsible in paying their bills, honoring their debts and establishing a proper non-profit reserve, etc.
Communications costs seems to be a huge place where Iditarod has had/has hemorrhaging problems in the past, as noted by the $650,000 bill in these minutes...
The catch-22....the only way to bring the race to the public is thru technology, but the bill is too big and the public doesn't want to pony-up the money to cover the real cost. So they need more people to buy in at the $19.95 per year, but if the coverage is less-than-perfect, they won't sign up more than once.
For real information and not just opinions, minutes on all the meetings are available at
and you can get a real sense for where the ITC as an organization has its struggles and successes. There is no 'bad guy' in this thing...I think the $3,000 fee, given what it really costs per musher to the RGO, is not altogether unreasonable. I like what Aily had to say, as she understands that mushers and the ITC are trying to work together to accomplish a great race....

IMO the $1049 at the finish line may be all that stands between actually getting the musher and team back to Anchorage (or where ever home is)and having them try to 'borrow', as Aliy put it, a way to get out of Nome.
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Doug R.

230 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2007 :  11:06:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Here's where I read it.
The ITC , to my knowledge has not said that. It is my belief, and the belief of others that I have spoken to. Time will tell.
Entry fees make up only 3% of the ITC's income. A $1,250 fee increase raises a musher's typical $10,000 race budget 12.5%. An increase to $5,000 increases that same budget by 32%.
Maybe $3,000 is OK. Maybe $5,000 is OK. Maybe $10,000 is OK. But we may already be seeing the effects of the fee increase. Fewer rookies and second timers cannot be good for the race.
No doubt about it, the Iditarod is going the way of Indy racing. BIG money. The sad thing is that I believe more and more mushers will be watching it from the sidelines. Myself included.

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Cliff Maxfield

2631 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  06:19:34 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Doug- I believe your right about a least one thing.
- "More and more mushers will be watching it from the sidelines" -BUT their field of eighty teams will still be filled to the MAX with many waiting. This is because there are simply a lot of good teams itching to give it a shot and why I maintain the real solution would be at least two more races of Iditarod calibre. We need a triple crown in the sleddog world where the top twenty teams and then sixty new teams from each region would compete. Entry would be based according to where you live and how you place with trades offs from year to years.
It would be one way to reduce costs without comprimising the quality of the race.
IMHO we do way to much complaining but fall short with solutions. ITC will do what they need to do. It is for us to go promote our kennels, sport, and get many sponsors. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it...
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869 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  11:24:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit swanny's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Let's not forget the Quest as a leg in a "triple-crown". Everyone I know who has run both the Quest and the I'rod tells me the Quest is a more challenging race.

I think a third true long distance (1,000 miles or greater) race would be good for the sport overall. Is there anywhere in the Lower-48 where organizers could lay out 1,000 or more miles of uninterrupted trail?

Maybe on the Canadian side it might be possible to lay out a race following the old North West Company / Hudson's Bay Company winter express from Fort Chipewyan to Fort William? (1629 miles by road according to Rand McNally).

“A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other.” William Francis Butler
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29 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  11:53:47 AM  Show Profile  Visit intensekarin's Homepage  Reply with Quote
This sort of sounds like 'poor little mushers' against the 'big bad ITC'. Just who do we think ITC is, anyway?

Burmeister, Swenson, Maxwell, Moderow, Seavey, Owens - these guys are all mushers and have all run the Iditarod. I'm not saying I always agree with every decision that is made. I'm not saying that every decision that is made goes in favor of the mushers (obviously not). I just think it is sort of silly to start pointing fingers and talking about ulterior motives.

The board members and staff at ITC are not 'them' - they are people (many of them mushers) who really do care about this race and how to make sure it continues. They have to balance a lot of different issues and try to figure out how to keep this race going. This is a really thankless job and they are bound to piss off someone, no matter what they do.

If you don't like how things are being run, there are always opportunities to get involved... Me, I gotta go train dogs.

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356 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  12:06:14 PM  Show Profile  Visit rhum's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I think if you have to equate dog care to dollars... i.e "skimping" on money means lower dog care... then probably the real reason for running in the first place is missing.

And also the idea that having half the straw or markers would be the end of the world for dog care seems silly... why would that lower dog care... isn't the idea that mushers care for their dogs regardless of what environmental conditions are faced. Less straw or markers doesn't mean less dog care... in means more responsibility for the musher... that's all.

So.. ya, if not as much money were spent to put on the race, the tone of the event might change, but responsible mushers- rich or poor- fat or "skimpy"- would still provide quality dog care because that is what mushers do for their dogs... pretty simple.

But it would be foolish to ignore the role money plays in our society. And with ITC raising fees, dreaming of ever bigger purses, what pressures are really being placed on mushers.

Is it to provide better dog care?
or is it to say-
"Wow! I have spent all this money, I could win all this extra money if I just push a little harder. All I have to do is run just a little more than rest!"... oh wait, who is actually running? Oh ya... the dogs... well money sure helped dog care in that case!

Come on we all know this happens... you can see it on the trail all the way into the back of the pack!

And after all that happened with Ramey Brooks last year... who is really just an extreme case, not a rare case, of all the many choices mushers make for their own needs and not their dogs needs on the trail. We need to face up to how we are structuring our sport and who is profiting from it and why... surely money isn't motivating our dog care. Surely we don't need a million dollar purse to provide quality dog care? Surely the size of the purse isn't the motivator for top mushers to race to the best of the skills?

As Jeff King said, Iditarod is entertainment, dead dogs aren't fun. So following a year with a well know dead dog from a team that surely everyone would agree wanted/needed a "bit" more rest (or do we all start races with teams that sit down on us when they are feeling good and happy?)... increasing the financial reason to push just a little harder for top teams (prize money) to tail end teams (expenses) makes little sense... where is the fun in that? What sponsor would like to be branded with that?

Where is the recognition that dog care isn't what it should be, that mushers are pushing dogs not because the dogs want it, but because the mushers want it.

If we don't want to have "outsiders" passing judgment on us, if we want to be proud of what we do- we'd better address this! The ITC seems to have ignored it, hoped it will do away, and actually taken steps that will increase the problem!
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658 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  1:56:05 PM  Show Profile  Visit Woofy's Homepage  Reply with Quote
rhum, what you say about people pushing dogs too far, whether in the front, middle, or back of a race is probably best prevented through better education, some restrictions, etc. Because even if the racers got a lot less money than they do now, there will still be people who want to push just a little harder for the extra cash...or because they aren't noticing what their dogs are telling them for a mulititude of reasons (low experience+not enough food+lack of sleep definately hinders folks' judgement), or even just because, hey, if I go a little faster, I will place a little higher, and maybe I'll finally get that dog food sponsor I've been looking for, or whatever their reasons may be. There'll always be people who run their dogs too hard. I don't think money (whether the promise of more, or the lack of it) is the only cause. I liked what Lance Mackey said at the Reno, Nevada ISDRA Dog Powered Sports Conference. He said that it is his belief that all mushers that want to race should be a good standing member of an organization (such as Mush with PRIDE, I think) that regulates and educates people about the proper care and safety of keeping, raising, and racing sled dogs. That's my two cents, for what it's worth.

"Sailor Girl Sled Dog Kennel"
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Doug R.

230 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  2:05:30 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
First, let me make it clear that I do not think that the ITC is a "bad guy". Nor do I think that it's "poor little mushers" versus "them". I believe that the ITC has every good intention and that they are doing what they think is best for their organization and the race. I just simply disagree with their decision to raise the entry fee. That's all. Every decision ever made has a reason and/or a motive. And I'm simply stating my reasons why I think it's the wrong decision. I do like how things are being run and discussing this and exchanging ideas with others is part of how I get involved. Keep in mind, that if I can afford to run the Iditarod with an $1850 entry fee but cannot with a $3000 or $5000 entry fee, then my contention is correct. Mushers are being and will continue to be priced out of the race. How many good mushers were priced out at $1850? Every decision that is made no matter where it is made or who makes it has its' critics. I am one of the critics of this decision. That's all. That doesn't make it an us versus them scenario.
The ITC is a business and has to be run like a business. When you raise the price of one of your products some of your customers go away. Simple. And that is bad for business.
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Ken Anderson

121 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  2:27:56 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

I liked your comments and share some of your concerns (although a full bale of straw and a well-marked trail sure are nice). I too think about the future of the race and what it will be like ten, twenty years down the road. It seems like we're hitting the bottom of a bell curve in the purse, and as much as I'd like to think a raised purse won't change musher's outlook, and that we have adequate safeguards in place to protect the dogs (vet checks, etc.), big money changes things. Look at what it's done to the Tour De France. At the IOFC meeting the topic of drug testing came up and I was really proud to hear Stu Nelson tell us that over the many years he's been head vet there has never been a positive drug test. I'm sure horse racing or greyhound racing can't say that. Although, I think dog mushing is realistically a long ways (financially) away from these other sports. Ken
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Joshua A Kooiman

84 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  4:21:06 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
So the entry fee was $1850 now it is $3000. If you are serious about running THE LAST GREAT RACE shouldn't you be more serious about how you finance your operation. Why can't you come up w/ the additonal $1150 over 12months? It's less than $100 a month. And if you can't budget that are your really providing your dogs the best care in the off season anyway? I mean if a dog eats a stone, do you have an extra $500 for the operation or is it just tough for the dog you put him down and move on. I think most people would be able to find the money for that dog. I don't understand why it is so tough to come up w/ the money to race if you really want to race THE LAST GREAT RACE. Maybe you can't race it every year, so you have to wait an extra year well now you can save up the difference for the entry fee over 24 months, less than $50 a month you have to save and then you can afford the entry fee.
It just seems to me mushers as a group are poor or just terrible money managers. Maybe if you didn't try to raise the 5 or 10 litters of pups every year and didn't buy 2 or more dogs every year you would have some money left to save for racing. Other wise what the heck is all this work for anyways? I know there are rec racers out there. Rec racers wont generally have 30 plus dogs either though. so i asume they can afford whatever number of dogs they have just for fun, other wise what the heck are they doing?
Why should there be another long distance race? Not too many race both of the two there are anyways. Where are you going to fit that into our few months of winter?
Robert Sorlie mortgaged his house to race the Iditarod. He found a way to make it happen. If you are really serious about doing this race you will find a way. Complaining about another $1150 in the grand scheme of things is a pretty pitifull excuse to not fulfill a life long dream.

Edited by - Joshua A Kooiman on 08/01/2007 4:28:53 PM
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Doug R.

230 Posts

Posted - 08/01/2007 :  4:42:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think that is incorrect to assume that just because someone can't afford the fee increase that they are also providing sub-standard care to their dogs. Yes, many mushers are poor, but it's because they put all of their extra resources into their dog team. I see it the opposite; people are putting so much money into their dog care that the extra expense of a fee increase is tough to make. So, rather than cut dog care $$, they opt out of the race. And I'm sure that some are terrible money managers. That isn't just a musher affliction.
I think that you will find that most small kennels are managed very well. In my case, I had one planned litter and bought one dog this year. This was done to improve the quality of my team. I suppose that I could not have done that and had the extra money to run the LAST GREAT RACE, but I would have been giving it an inferior effort.
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433 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2007 :  7:12:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
First: The Irod is one of the very few races that I know of that spends more supporting a dog team than it gets in entry fees. Many so-called "professional" races here in the lower 48 are little more than pot races with the top teams splitting very little more than entry fees.
If the Iditarod ever approaches having entry fees cover team support expenses then we might have something to complain about.
The Iditarod is our worldwide showcase for our sport. Mushers "investing" in their sport so that more of the sponsor's money can be used for sharing information, promoting our sport as a humane partnership between dog and man is not such a bad idea. PBR started with several Cowboys anteing up for the good of their sport and the results are history.
The ITC is far from a perfect organization but they are far ahead of anyone else in our sport.
Maybe every criticism should be acompanied with an in-dept alternative. I hear a lot of "they shoulds" and very few" I wills".

Mike Hutchens
Gwinn MI
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