LEADVILLE — Throughout many of the colder months in Colorado, you can find teams of dogs and their handlers working together to fly across our mountain-speckled landscape using specially designed sleds and harnesses.
With tails wagging and tongues lolling, these packs trained for running take to the trails with a passion that translates to speed — as well as plenty of barking, howling and woofing ahead of time.
While various groups dot the map across the states, Colorado is home to the CMM, or Colorado Mountain Mushers.
The group, established in 1989, works to "foster novice and family racing along with other working dog associated winter sports by organizing a fun racing circuit of professional quality, encouragement of new mushers and to promote and foster the well being of sled dogs."
In addition to working to educate the public on matters regarding dog sledding, the group advocates for better treatment of dogs in various situations. The CMM hosts a number of sled dog opportunities each year that range from educational clinics to dry land racing, sprints and mid-distance races.
Handlers involved in the sport describe it as more of a lifestyle than anything else, as the dogs become part of the family. Some CMM members spend an upwards of eight hours each day with their pack, training them to be a team and also in general social skills.
Racers say there's nothing quite like being out on the track with their team, explaining that it's peaceful with nobody around and no sounds other than the padding of paws and the panting of dogs.
The Colorado Mountain Mushers are members of Mush with PRIDE. "PRIDE" stands for Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment. The relationship between sled dogs and humans is one of the oldest bonds of its kind. Modern sled dog owners are proud of their dogs as canine athletes that are bred and trained to do what they love: run as part of a team. Mush with PRIDE supports the responsible care and humane treatment of all dogs and is dedicated to enhancing the care and treatment of sled dogs in their traditional and modern uses.
The Colorado Mountain Mushers have wrapped up their events for the 2019-2020 season, the last event being the mush on Mount Massive at the end of February that is featured in this article's video.
You can find information on other sled dog related events inside the United States HERE.