Who let the dogs out?

25th February 2011, by Chris Gill

Where are the moguls, buddy?  [Dog teams in Baqueira]

Where are the moguls, buddy? [Dog teams in Baqueira]

Along with the skiers and boarders enjoying Baqueira-Beret’s recent snowfalls this weekend will be hundreds of racing dogs.

The dogs will be limbering up on the Spanish pistes for a couple of days of intensive snow sports, competing with their handlers in the Spanish Dog Sled Championships. Most will be daytime races, but mushing practise and tests also take place at night.

The pace is exhilarating as the dogs seem to take charge and run like the wind, the handler encouraging and steering them in the right direction. Of course, these are animals and occasionally have a mind of their own – although strictly trained and managed for these events. If you’ve ever had a ride, you’ll have noticed that strong element of trust exists between man and beast though.

The Spanish event has been revised and extended for 2011 to include skijoring, with dogs too. Coming from all over the country, the teams will compete in various categories for the championship title. Sleds are harnessed with four, six or eight dogs depending on the race. And there is a children’s event, where young mushers will race with two dogs.

In skijoring, more commonly associated with horses, the skier uses cross-country skis and is pulled along by one or two dogs. It is, apparently, the easiest introduction to skiing with dogs.

The races take place on a specially designed circuit, with various degrees of difficulty. Speed events will cover distances of 6km or 12km, with the dogs and handlers up against the clock to secure the best points.

So, watch out if you’re in Baqueira this weekend … 500 dogs will be barking their excitement at the new snowfalls out there too!

Bark at the moon?

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