The economy might slow down the sled-dog racing events.
But it certainly won't slow down the dogs.
The San Juan Stage Race, a four-stage showcase of sled-dog racing in the San Juans, will kick off Thursday near Mancos. The popular sled-dog races will continue with stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 23-25) as the teams cover 125 miles over four days.
"All of the mushers have felt the economy," said Greg Dubit of the Durango Dog Ranch, organizer of the 2009 San Juan Stage Race.
"We're hoping for a big turnout. But we're not sure. And we're trying out some new things this year. We hope we can keep it going, and then step back up next year (2010)," Dubit said.
He said there will be a purse this year, but it will be determined by the final number of entries.
A big addition this year, he said, is the affiliation with the fight against cystic fibrosis. This year's event will be a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, Dubit said.
To raise money for the CF Foundation, he said, the stage race will have a live auction of snowmobile tours of the final day's sled-dog course on the back side of Durango Mountain Resort.
Also, Dubit said, the proceeds from beer sales at the Saturday night mushers' program at Steamworks Brewing in Durango will go to the charity.
"We would love to have spectators come out and watch the dogs," Dubit said. "Please leave your own dogs at home, because we will have canines at work."
Dubit said the mushers can have 16 dogs in their respective pools for the four stage races. The mushers can race 12 dogs per day.
The stage event opens on Thursday with a 20-mile run at Echo Basin (Burnt Ridge area).
The racing starts at 3 p.m. with a start and finish at the same location, by the Forest Service gate on the Echo Basin road.
There will be a bonfire and the popular Chris' Cowboy Café will serve food and refreshments. Vet checks will be held in Mancos on Thursday morning.
On Jan. 23, racers will do a 40-mile loop in the west Mancos area, starting and finishing by Jackson Lake. Racing begins at 2 p.m., with the finish about 3 to 4 hours later. The café again will serve refreshments.
On Jan. 24, another loop on the 40-mile west Mancos course will be staged with a 9 a.m. start. An early afternoon finish is expected.
The mushers' banquet will be held at Steamworks on Saturday night, Jan. 24, with the auction for Sunday's snowmobile rides.
"Sunday (Jan. 25), we'll race at DMR, which is huge for us," Dubit said. "And we're offering snowmobile rides for spectators. We'll have guided tours to the back side to watch the races."
The auction will be crucial to raising money for the CF Foundation, Dubit said.
Sunday's featured 20-mile stage will start at the base area of Durango Mountain Resort, with mushers heading up the switchbacks to the back side (Hermosa Creek).
Racing starts at 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 25.
The sled-dog races will be visible from near the bases of Lift 8, Lift 5 and Lift 3 at Purgatory.
The sled dogs will be following part of the course that will be used for the Tour de Ski cross country marathon race on Saturday, Jan. 24.
For more information, visit sanjuanstagerace.com.