Man’s best friend will have to wait another year to participate in one of the most beloved winter competitions in the Midwest.
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The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, a series of races involving dog sleds and mushers scheduled to begin on Jan. 26, has been canceled due to lack of snow, organizers announced. The race takes place over a 300-mile course and is known for incorporating the extremes of northern Minnesota weather, as well as for the trail’s rugged terrain.
The event’s board of directors made the decision to cancel the marathon after “months of waiting for the weather to cooperate,” citing safety concerns for the dogs, mushers and volunteers due to the minimal snow cover, according to a press release posted to the organization’s official website Tuesday night.
Postponing the marathon to later in the winter season was not an option because the weather has been so unpredictable, organizers said.
Duluth, a city on the eastern side of Minnesota adjacent to Lake Superior, where the race typically kicks off, is coming off a December that featured well-below-average snowfall and record-challenging temperatures, data from the National Weather Service shows.
Since Dec. 1, Duluth has only received 4.8 inches of snow – a 15-inch deficit compared to the 19.8 inches the city typically sees by this point in the winter. In addition, the current snow depth is only one inch, while the snow depth for the month of December was only 0.3 inches – the lowest value since 1939.
At this time last year, Duluth had 20 inches of snow on the ground.
The snowfall trend also extends to Minnesota overall, as well as the rest of the country.
About 150 miles south of Duluth, just 2.1 inches of snow has fallen in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Twin Cities, which is 10 inches below the average for this time of year.
December 2023 was the warmest December on record for Minnesota, as well as for the Twin Cities, specifically. In Duluth, December 2023 was the second-warmest on record, falling short of the number-one warmest, seen in December 1877.
The unusually mild winter has also created safety issues elsewhere in the state.
Last week, a man drowned after a commercial tracked vehicle fell through the ice on Lake of the Woods, located in a region about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis, ABC Twin Cities affiliate KTSP reported. On Dec. 29, 122 anglers were rescued after becoming stranded on the ice on Upper Red Lake in Beltrami County, while on New Year’s Day, up to 25 people were rescued from the ice on Lake of the Woods after the north end of a pressure ridge cracked open, KTSP reported.
The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon includes a mid-distance race, the Beargrease 120, which travels through the rugged Sawtooth mountains on Lake Superior’s north shore. There’s also a recreational race known as the Beargrease 40, according to the event website.
The 40th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which serves as a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska, will commence in January 2025, organizers said, should the weather cooperate.
The Gunflint Mail Run, another sled dog race that takes place in Cook County, Minnesota, northeast of Duluth, has also been postponed until Feb. 10 and will only host a maximum of 15 teams this year for the safety of mushers and dogs, organizers announced on the race website.
Less than 21% of the U.S. is currently covered in at least one inch of snow, according to National Weather Service, but two storm systems forecast to make their way across the country in the coming days could alleviate the snow deficit and end the snow drought occurring in much of the Northeast.
ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway and Cheryl Gendron contributed to this report.
I am Robert Le, the author of the article on the website "Rescuing Pet Dogs" and a person who is passionate about the animal world, especially dogs that have gone through difficulties and were rescued. With extensive knowledge about caring for and nurturing puppies, I not only share useful experiences and knowledge but also bring adorable stories about my journey to help four-legged friends. I constantly learn and research about issues related to pet dogs, and through my blog posts, I hope to spread the message of love and care for these priceless friends. Join me as we explore the adorable world of rescued dogs and learn how you can contribute to their happiness.