Whiteout Racing Kennel exceeded expectations last month at the dog sled racing season kickoff, the West Yellowstone Rodeo Run.
The early season event gains popularity each year as West Yellowstone receives more snow than other places, albeit less snow in past years. Whiteout Racing Kennel owner and operator Christina Gibson described the Rodeo Run as “a good time to connect with other mushers.” West Yellowstone received a healthy dumping of snow right before the race, providing a good base for teams to run. Christina described her team’s enthusiasm: “I love racing. But the dogs love it even more than I do. They really get into it. When we pass a team, they get really excited, they get this look. They know we’re winning.”
Christina took 10 dogs to the event, and ran eight with Brother and Nellie in the lead. Race times for the Whiteout Racing Kennel team were better than expected, gaining 10 minutes to finish in fourth place with a time of 1:36:51 on the second day. “This was the best start to the season in five years,” Christina noted, expressing that the bond between her and all the dogs on the team is stronger this year.
It’s been a tough training season with little snow in the Methow Valley during November and December. At the beginning of January, Christina and her team had worked up to just 23 miles on training day. Usually the team is mushing 40-mile days in the new year. “We’re working to get back on schedule. Races will depend on training,” she said. A recent Facebook post noted the team’s progress with a recent 48-mile run.
While the dogs are putting on miles, Christina is putting on muscle. Seasonal training both on the trail and in the kennel conditions the musher and the dogs. “I definitely notice a difference during the winter in my upper body strength,” she said.
Christina noted that her team’s bond is stronger this year, and so is her own growth in the sled behind the team. Things weren’t going as planned this season — it was cold and miserable, and yet she felt positive. “Dog mushing builds resilient people,” she said. “You learn to roll with the punches, work to be positive, and do the best we can with what we got.”
Christina’s goal is to always finish a race with a happy, healthy team. Her goal for each individual dog is for them to lead a happy, healthy life. All dogs are house-trained and socialized. When retirement comes, the dogs can make a smooth transition into a home to spend their senior years basking in the sun on a comfy couch with a loving family.
The next event for the Whiteout Racing team is the Pedigree Stage Stop Race in Wyoming starting on Saturday (Jan. 25). The race lasts 10 days and ends in a different town each night. The race raises awareness about childhood immunizations and contributes to community programs that provide childhood immunizations.