MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN/WOOD) — One weekend a year for the last 30 years, downtown Marquette has transformed into a hub of excitement for the UP200 sled dog race.
The UP200, which starts Friday, is an Iditarod qualifier. Teams who make the cut have just over three weeks before taking on the wilds of Alaska.
The 238-mile course is an out-and-back route between Marquette and Grand Marais that will test mushers and their dogs against all kinds of terrain.
The exact mileage is calculated by trail crews. Storms in November did a lot of damage, so it has taken longer to clear and groom trails and to finalize the safest route. Though they will be slightly shorter than last year, the trails are in good condition.
Race organizers take great care to ensure a safe event for the dogs and mushers. Veterinarians examine the dogs before the race and at checkpoints throughout. A total rest time of 16 hours is required, and the mushers decide how much rest time they will use at each checkpoint.
In addition to the UP 200, weekend race events include The Midnight Run and The Jack Pine 30.
Representatives from Pure Michigan will be in attendance. They created a visitors guide for the event.
If you’re headed north to check out the race, visit woodtv.com’s UP sister website upmatters.com.