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Mush! Idaho’s Sled Dog Race Tradition

Posted On
Feb 01, 2020
Things to Do
Upcoming Events
Winter Recreation
Activities near Yellowstone


In a land where a massive amount of snow falls each year, people have to be resourceful to get around. While modern life involves plowed highways, four-wheel-drive, snow tires, and snowmobiles, people in the past turned to their four-legged friends for winter transportation. Dog sledding is still celebrated locally, with two beloved sled dog races running through the region every February. People can also try mushing for themselves by signing up for a trip with a local outfitter.

American Dog Derby, Ashton

The American Dog Derby in Ashton is the oldest dog sled race in the contiguous U.S. This year is the 103rd anniversary of the first race. The 2020 event is scheduled for February 14 and 15.

The race was first held in 1917 when Tud Kent braved a ferocious blizzard to beat out four other competitors for first place in the race from West Yellowstone, Montana, to Ashton. By 1921, the race moved solely to the Ashton area and 10,000 spectators came out to cheer on the dog-and-musher teams.

However, the popularity of the race waned during the Great Depression and it was shortened to just 16 miles. In 1934, a lack of snow led the “sled” race to transform into a wheeled endeavor, with competitors attaching their sleds to wagons to compete. During World War II, the race wasn’t held for a number of years, with it resuming in 1946. But as snowmobiles gained popularity in the following decades, interest declined, and the race was discontinued following the 1961 race.

Several decades later, the race was brought back to life as 21 teams competed on a round-trip route from Ashton to Island Park in 1993. The route was later changed back to the Ashton area, but the race is still going strong.

Now, mushers come from all around the U.S. to participate in the race, which offers several different options. The Open Class is 45 miles, with a 10-dog minimum, while the Cordingly Race is the same length but for 8 to 10 dog teams. Shorter 25-mile options are available, as well as a Skijoring Potluck Race where a cross-country skier is towed by a team of one to three dogs for around four miles. There’s also a 7.5-mile for ages 16 and under with teams of two to four dogs. Other activities, like a snowshoe race, weight pull, and celebrity race, also make the race a fun and festive event for spectators.

Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race

The Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020. While this race is mostly located in Wyoming, Stage Six takes place in Driggs.

This year’s race begins January 31 in Jackson, Wyoming, looping through Alpine, Pinedale, Kemmerer, Big Piney/Marbleton, and Lander, before reaching Driggs on February 7, and returning to Wyoming the following day.

Try your hand at mushing in Ashton

Ashton-based Silver Sage Mushing allows opportunities for people to explore the world of mushing, with short, medium, and long trips. A “Mushing 101” primer gets beginners ready and prepared to go out and mush.