HG: SustainAbility Column March 28, 2009

Local musher, Optometrist Steven Bethka, a prominent local musher, enjoys being out in the winter sunshine with his four sled dogs.

“The dogs really love to go out and run,” he said.

Three or four times a week Bethka takes his dogs or training runs. He uses rollerblades or a non-motorized scooter when he can’t get up to Grand Mesa. “Training is the best part,” Bethka said.

Bethka followed the Iditarod a little bit, but he is drawn to sprinting and skijoring. In the sled dog world, comparing sprinting to the Iditarod is like comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner.

Sled dog sprints are less than 10 miles long and generally have a ratio of one dog pulling per each mile of the course. In skijoring, one or two dogs pull a skier over a four- or six-mile course. Bethka is not interested in “camping out in freezing cold weather.”

Bethka was instrumental in creating an excellent new sled dog racing trail on Grand Mesa.

Over the past three years, the Grand Mesa Cedaredge Challenge and Rocky Mountain High Sled Dog Sprints have taken place on the course.

Competitions are social and there is an event in the summer near Buena Vista with dogs pulling people who are running or on bikes, carts and scooters.

Colorado Mountain Mushers is a family-oriented sled dog club that is not too competitive, according to Bethka.

The Rocky Mountain Sled Dog Club is more competitive and mushers can earn points toward national ranking.

Intrigued by the concept of human and canine athletes teaming up for a romp or dash in the Colorado winter? Bethka said it only takes one or two dogs to get started.

You can contact Bethka by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information or get in touch with one of the clubs.

— Adele Israel


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