FORT KENT, Maine — On Saturday, Vermont musher Heather D’Arcy and her team of six Siberian huskies placed seventh in the Can-Am Crown 30-mile sled dog race.
On Sunday, D’Arcy gave five dogs a day off and traded her sled for cross-country skis to take part in the first Fort Kent Outdoor Center Skijor race.
In skijoring, the skier is attached to one or more dogs by an 8-foot line and skis along behind the running dogs.
“We have a beautiful setup [for skijoring] here at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center,” Laura Audibert, president of the center, said Sunday. “The Can-Am had wanted to partner up with us to do something to hold a different event to bring people in and [skijoring] was a perfect fit — there’s already dogs here and skiers, so we’d thought we’d give it a try.”
Twenty skiers took part in the inaugural skijor event participating in 5-, 10- and 15-kilometer races at the former 10th Mountain Lodge.
“We’re here on Sunday anyway, so why not do something else?” D’Arcy said before harnessing up two huskies for the 15K race. “It’s just for fun and to just hang out with the dogs.”
The musher went on to place third in her race with an overall time of 00:54:51.
Huskies like D’Arcy’s were in the majority at the event, but there was a good representation of non-Nordic breeds.
Neil Fisher came up from Old Town with his mixed-breed rescue dog Olive for the 10K skijor.
Olive had a bit of rough start in life, Fisher said, and skijoring was her salvation.
Found as a stray six years ago, Olive bounced from the Bangor Humane Society to friends of Fisher’s — who ultimately did not have the time to devote to a dog who was both an escape artist and chewer — to Fisher, who knew that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
It took six months just to figure out how to keep Olive at home, he said.
“She figured out every way over, under and through the fence,” Fisher said.
Once free, Olive would beat a path directly to the Old Town Canoe factory.
“I think she knew the internal layout of that factory by heart, [and] the employees all knew her by name,” Fisher said.
“I Googled winter sports and dogs, and found skijoring,” he said. “The first winter was me learning to ski and her getting the harness and getting used to the tow line. The second winter, I gave it a go and I hooked her up, she took off and pulled me right off my feet.”
The two have refined their style since then and on Sunday they placed third in the 10K race with a time of 00:48:37.
With some of the teams, it was hard to tell just who was pulling whom when some of the dogs dropped behind their human teammates to check out the fans lining the course or an interesting scent along the trail.
“This was a great course, but I think I worked harder than she did,” Paul Lamoreau of Presque Isle said with a laugh after finishing the 10K race with his pointer-Lab mix Zoe. “It was wicked fun.”
Lamoreau and Zoe worked hard enough to take the top spot in the race with a time of 00:37:43.
Winning the 5K race was Nils Franke of Durham, New Hampshire, with a time of 00:17:11.
On Saturday, his father, Peter Franke, took second place in the Can-Am Crown 30-mile race.
“This was definitely worth doing,” Audibert said. “We will certainly look to do it again next year and hopefully with even more competitors.