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Idaho sled dog races near McCall get started

The teams of mushers are competing in a grueling, 300-mile long race.

MCCALL, Idaho — The McCall Winter Carnival is now in full swing, but we had to wait until Wednesday to see one of the most anticipated events.

It is called the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge.

The start of the 300-mile race was 11 a.m. at the Little Ski Hill. That's just three miles northwest of McCall.

This race features world-class mushers.

It is the only 300-mile Yukon Quest qualifier in the lower 48 and one of only three such events in the contiguous continental U.S. states for the Iditarod. The Iditarod and the Yukon Quest are considered the longest and the toughest sled dog races in the world.

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown, which also includes the Eagle Cap Extreme Jan. 22-25 near Joseph, Ore., and the Race to the Sky Feb. 7-11 near Helena, Mont.

According to spokesperson Dave Looney, the Idaho race is considered one of the most grueling mushing competitions in the world due to its topography.

"Mushers will tell you this is a very, very atypical race," Looney says. "Our elevation change is 44,000 feet, which is greater than the Iditarod. They call it a 500-mile race packed into 300 miles. So the dog care and the pacing and the attention they have to pay to the terrain is really important, because there's a lot of up and down. One musher said the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is like climbing Mt. Everest -- twice."

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Two more sled dog races are set to kick off Thursday.

The junior race is 37 miles and is for teens 14-17. The 100-mile race and junior race both start at the Little Ski Hill.

Four Idahoans -- Kevin Daugherty from McCall, Chantelle Chase from New Plymouth, Carlleen Brehmer from Boise, and Laurie Warren from Council -- are competing in the 100-mile race.

The finishes for the 100-mile race and the 300-mile race are on Friday.

The 100-mile race finish is early morning on Jan. 31 at Van Wyck State Park in Cascade.

The 300-mile race finish is from early evening on Jan. 31 to late morning Feb. 1 at the Little Ski Hill.

Spectators can follow the race online day or night via GPS sled trackers or by visiting five road-accessible checkpoints.

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This year's 300-mile race includes a Smiths Ferry checkpoint, allowing Treasure Valley and Magic Valley residents to experience the race without trekking to McCall or New Meadows.

Race officials expect mushers and their teams to reach the Smiths Ferry checkpoint Jan. 30 late in the morning and throughout the afternoon.

Cascade spectators can catch the dogs and sleds in action Jan. 29 late in the evening and throughout the night, and on Jan. 31 they can watch the 100-mile race finish early in the morning and watch the 300-mile racers pass the checkpoint throughout the day.

Estimated checkpoints times can vary by many hours depending on trail conditions, so race officials encourage spectators to monitor the trackers when planning checkpoint visits.

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