Frequently Asked Questions
What do you want to know?
- What volunteer jobs and shifts are still available?
- How do I volunteer?
- How old do I need to be to volunteer?
- What do I need to bring with me as a volunteer?
- What if I get hungry while I’m volunteering?
- Where are the best places to view the race?
- I cant be there. How can I follow the race?
- My dog loves other dogs. Can I bring her to the race?
- Why do the dogs wear those booties on their feet?
- What does a dog handler do?
- Is sled dog racing safe for the dogs?
- Why is there a team of veterinarians working on the race?
- The dogs are smaller than I expected. Why aren’t they bigger?
- Can I take pictures during the race?
- Can I pet the dogs?
- Are there other race etiquette rules I should follow?
- Are there precautions I should take while driving near the race?
What volunteer jobs and shifts are still available?
We need to fill all volunteer shifts for the 2018 race. We’ll continue to update this page as those shifts are filled.
How do I volunteer?
Send an e-mail to Cathy Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let her know what shift(s) you are available to help.
How old do I need to be to volunteer?
Volunteers should be at least 18 years old. Volunteers between the ages of 14 to 17 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
What do I need to bring with me to volunteer?
We provide road crossing volunteers with MN DOT standard reflective vests. You should bring your own headlamp or flashlight. And wear lots of very, very warm clothes.
What if I get hungry while I’m volunteering?
Sarah has you covered! She and her crew are cooking up meals for all of the mushers, handlers and volunteers.
How do I register for the race?
We are updating the registration for the 2018 race. We’ll let you know as soon as it is available.
Are there rules for the race?
Yes! You can find all of them here.
What is the starting order?
As the mushers check in and sign the race waiver, they reach into a hat and pull a number that corresponds to their bib number and their starting position. At the same time, they are also given a parking assignment according to their start order. Note: at the conclusion of the race, the mushers keep their bibs.
Will there be water available for mushers at Trail Center?
Yes! We want you and your dogs to stay hydrated.
I have come down with the crud. Can I switch drivers on our team?
We hope you feel better and can race! If not, musher substitutions are allowed up until the Mushers Meeting, with the Race Marshal’s approval.
Where are the best places to view the race?
The most exciting place to watch the race is at Trail Center Lodge (7611 Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, MN 55604). That’s where the teams will be starting and ending both segments of the race. The turnaround points are also great for watching the race. Since we are watching the weather closely to determine which route we are taking, we can’t yet tell you where those turnarounds will be. As soon as we know, we can update this page.
I can’t be there. How can I follow the race?
My dog loves other dogs. Can I bring her to the race?
Please leave your dog at home. If you have a small dog, she looks like a Scooby snack to the race dogs. And even if you have a larger dog, the excitement of a sled dog race can make dogs act out. We don’t want any dogs or humans to be injured!
Why do the dogs wear those booties on their feet?
Booties worn by the dogs to prevent ice balls from collecting between the toes of the dogs. Dogs sweat between their pads and the crossbred dogs have solid fur, which conducts the heat of the dog all the way to the snow. This means that the wet, hot hair collects a build-up of ice, which then frostbites the tissue between the pads. Traditional breeds such as the Siberian Husky have hollow fur and do not conduct the heat to the snow. However, even they can have problems, under the right temperatures and snow conditions. In addition to the ice balls, the booties can prevent injuries on rough trails, including injuries from snow crystals, which can be abrasive in severely cold weather. Lastly, booties are also used for dogs whose feet show signs of worn pads or soreness, so they can properly heal. Booties can be made of various materials, such as denim, polar fleece or trigger cloth.
What does a dog handler do?
Dog handlers are a critical part of the sled dog team and their duties vary depending on the musher. Dog handlers may care for the dogs, including those left at a checkpoint; feed the dogs; help the musher get the dogs to the starting gate; clean up after the dogs; and collect veterinarian samples. One handler must accompany each musher to the Mandatory Mushers’ Meeting.
Is sled dog racing safe for the dogs?
The Gunflint Mail Run rules were established to ensure the safety and health of the dogs. The cruel and/or inhumane treatment of any dog is strictly prohibited. The veterinarian team examines all of the dogs, ensuring they are healthy before the race begins. The team is available, if needed, throughout the race. Should a dog become ill or injured during the race, the dog is left in the care of the handler. Most importantly, every dog in this race has been lovingly raised and carefully trained. While pulling a sled looks like hard work to us, to the dogs, it is FUN!
Why is there a team of veterinarians working on the race?
The veterinarian team ensures the health of all of the dogs. They examine all of the dogs prior to the start of the race and they are available throughout the entire race, to treat any dogs who become ill or injured. By the way, we think we have the best Veterinary Team in the sled dog community, led by Dr. Kathy Topham, DVM. The vets volunteer their time for the love of these canine athletes. We can’t thank them enough!
The dogs are smaller than I expected. Why aren’t they bigger?
Race Marshal Arleigh Jorgensen explains that smaller, leaner dogs have more speed and endurance and are more efficient. Their power is cumulative and comes from working together as a team.
Can I take pictures during the race?
Yes! Sled dog races are exciting and the canine athletes are very photogenic. However, please avoid using flash while the dogs are moving from their truck to the starting line, or from the starting line to their trucks, since the flash can be distracting. Also, please don’t use flash when the dogs are sleeping–they are working hard during the race and their sleep time is important.
Can I pet the dogs?
While most of the dogs would like it and accept it willingly, please don’t pet them or offer affection. They have a race to run and the mushers want to keep them focused on that.
Are there other race etiquette rules I should follow?
Sled dog racing is an unusual sport in that spectators can be very close to the action. Please give space to the dogs as well as their mushers, their handlers, and their veterinarians. Be aware that loud noises and running children can all be unintentional distractions. Please respect our efforts to get our dog teams in and out of the checkpoints with as little distraction as possible. Mushers are usually very approachable when they are finished with the race and their dogs are taken care of. However, it is important to remember that even while the teams are in the checkpoint, the race is on.
Are there precautions I should take while driving near the race?
While driving in the vicinity of the race, drivers should be very careful around road crossings. Teams come upon the crossings quickly and without much notice. The road crossing volunteers are very careful to ensure the safety of everyone. Please understand and cooperate. The road crossing volunteers guide you past the crossings, but know that their focus is on getting the dog teams safely across the road.
I can’t find the Gunflint Trail with my GPS. What gives?
Don’t start cursing your GPS just yet. Technically, Gunflint Trail isn’t a town and it most definitely is not a suburb–it’s an area just outside of Grand Marais. Try plugging in Grand Marais for the city and see if your GPS works any better. If that doesn’t do the trick, stop by a store along the way and someone will be happy to tell you how to get where you’re going. If you are looking at a paper map, the Gunflint Trail is Cook County Road 12.
I’m not from Cook County. How do I find gasoline stations, restaurants and lodging?
Welcome to Cook County! We have put together a Visitor Guide to help you out.
Why is dogsledding so important to the people of Cook County?
Cook County has a long and rich tradition of dogsledding and we want to honor that tradition with the Gunflint Mail Run. You can read more about that tradition here.
Photo credit: Nace Hagemann