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What's a small town race to do?

Every day brings new and unexpected challenges when planning an epic event like the CopperDog 150 sled-dog race.  This year has certainly not been the exception.

When we learned that we would not be able to borrow fencing from the local university (because the fencing is in use for a ski race) for the downtown Calumet start, there was silence around the board table. The silence was not surprise because the downtown start requires almost 1 mile of snow fence to enclose the starting chute on 5th Street; this was a serious hurdle to overcome.

What's a small town race to do? 

Well, the only the we could.  After researching all of the options, downtown Calumet Start Coordinator and Director of Main Street Calumet, Tom Tikkanen said, "Well, we're just going to have to build our own."

A last minute board vote by e-mail approved the $2,000.00 of materials necessary to build the fencing system. This is a large amount of money for our limited budget, but the idea of having our own fencing was exciting. One less problem for next year. If we could solve just one problem a year, future races should get easier to plan and execute.

Yesterday after work I stopped by the garage where David Rhealt was hard at work cutting and drilling the lumber that will eventually add up to almost a mile of fence support.  One of the great things about working with people like Tom and David is you know the job is going to get done and done well.

Why is the snow fence so important anyway?

It really comes down to control and safety. Watching these mushers start downtown is very exciting, but its also a competition. The fencing help the dogs see their path and not be distracted by all of the spectators hooping it up for the race teams.

posted on 2/25/2011 1:10 PM by Todd Brassard | permalink | Back to Top

CopperDog 150 Race Winner History

  CD 25 CD 80 CD 150
Year Winner Winner Winner
2019 Geri Minard Jerry Trudell Martha Schouweiler

  Short Race Short Race CD 150
Year Length Winner Winner
2018 80 Tristan Rivest Dennis LaBoda
2017 80 Geri Minard Anny Malo
2016 80 Mallory Sturmer Dennis LaBoda
2015 40 Matt Sturmer Dennis LaBoda
2014 40 Matt Sturmer Jake Golton
2013 40 Martha Schouweiler Bruce Magnusson
2012 35 Jerry Trudell JR Anderson
2011 35 Monte Simmons Ross Fraboni
2010 35 Saffron Hooper-Kay Ken Josefsen
posted on 11/7/2019 10:48 PM by Kiko de Melo e Silva | permalink | Back to Top

Snow Fence on Move…

Snow Fence on the Move...

This past Wednesday amidst winter's first snow fall, a tough team of Board Members and Volunteers resolved themselves to move the huge pile materials for the Calumet snow fence (about 3,500lbs of lumber, 350lbs of metal, and 50lbs of nylon fencing) from its summer home to its new home for the winter. 

An enthusiastic CD150 supporter, volunteer, worker, planner, and Trailblazer, David Rheault generously stored all of the lumber, poles, and fencing since the conclusion of the 2011 race. With winter finally sinking its teeth into the Keweenaw, David recommended that we move everything to a more accessible location, his placed was going to be buried in snow soon enough.  Once we arrived on the scene, we knew David was absolutely right. Moving that lumber was going to be a hundred times harder come February before the race.

Enter Paul Lehto and the Calumet Township, who is not only allowing us to store the materials in the Township Garage, but also provided us with a Township twin-axle trailer to move everything.  That's move everything to a location that is only 2 blocks from 5th Street!  We could not ask for a better situation.  The next time the fencing will see the light of day is when its picked up by our volunteer army to be deployed down a half-mile of snow road.

Although CD150 planners are getting pretty good at planning a sled-dog race, planning the move of our snow fence was just a bit problematic.  Despite the plethora of Michigan Tech engineers who showed to help heave lumber, we managed to load the tailor without centering the 3,500lbs load over the axles.  The tongue was sunk so far into the ground we ended up unloading the trailer and starting over.  It just goes to show, even the best minds can overlook the most obvious problems.  I suppose we were spending too much time socializing and trying to knock each other over. 

The job is done and we are very excited to have the fence ready to role out for race weekend.  Interestingly enough, the materials we own are only about half of what we need to fence the entire road.  We borrow the rest of the lumber, poles, and fencing from Michigan Tech, who is kind enough to help us out.  We all band together in the U.P., that's how we get things done.

Okay, so who wants to volunteer to help set up a snow fence on March 2 or take it down on March 4?  Come on now, don't be shy.

posted on 11/18/2011 2:36 PM by Todd Brassard | permalink | Back to Top

How We Approach Safety

To fully appreciate how CopperDog approaches safety it's very helpful to know the history of our inaugural event in 2010. As mushers poured into town for our first race the temperature was in the 50's and it was pouring rain. We literally watched in dismay as the rain and high temperatures eroded our trail system down to the dirt before our eyes.

Going into the third and final stage, record high temperatures concerned the vets and a few mushers considered the trails impassible (dirt, rocks and water barriers). Mushers were split evenly down the middle between pressing on regardless or canceling the third stage of the race. A compromise was reached (the start time moved up and the distance reduced, but a number of mushers walked away never intending to return.

Our fledgling race organization received more than its fair share of unanticipated challenges and tough love that first year.

With our first race wrapped up, we reflected on what we learned and we had a decision to make. We either needed to get out of the racing business or do the work necessary to becoming a world-class event. We chose the latter deciding that we were going to be one of the most dog and musher friendly events in the sport. 

Our motto, "happy healthy dogs, happy healthy mushers" because a constant reminder of our goals and was later expanded to include "happy healthy volunteers".

Since 2010 we have worked very hard to develop our race around this very simple, but power idea. The people who plan the CopperDog are engaged and passionate about every aspect of the event, especially the safety of the dogs, mushers, and hundreds of volunteers who make the race possible.

Although it is impossible to remove all the risk from events like sled dog races, with clear focus and persistence it is possible to minimize risk through excellent planning, effective communication, innovative tools, and hands-on volunteer training.

We do not know if CopperDog is entirely unique in offering hands-on volunteer training (volunteers practicing trail crossings with real 10-dog teams in a large parking lot) to volunteers, but we know it teaches volunteers what they need to know going into race weekend.

Our volunteers are trained how to clearly signal teams (day and night), capture and line out teams, follow the instructions of mushers, log mushers through crossing, and communicate vital data back to headquarters so we can make sure all the mushers are accounted for and making forward progress throughout the race.

We work closely with fire departments, police, search and rescue, first responders, and the road commissions to alert traffic to upcoming trail crossings, close lanes on bridges, and stay in radio communication with headquarters. We also employ a radio network that is constantly sending information on musher movements back to headquarters which is logging data into a database and feeding an interactive map that is estimating the position of each team on the route.

We have some pretty advanced technology driving our information flow and each year the systems are being developed and improved.

We started a new Lead Volunteer program in 2013 where volunteers interested in taking on more responsibility are provided with additional training and tools to help us manage the hundreds of volunteers working the event race weekend. These volunteers will help ensure that race procedures are followed, that information is flowing properly, and safety receives top priority.

Finally for 2013 we have created and filled a new Safety Coordinator position and supporting positions within CopperDog intended on help bring together all of our safety initiatives into a comprehensive plan that actually gets communicated effectively.

Will all of these initiatives guarantee that the CopperDog will never have a tragic incident?  Not by a long shot, but these initiatives help us minimize both the frequency of incidents and their impact when they do occur.

Will our efforts be enough? We hope so, with so many dogs, mushers, volunteers and fans putting their faith in our careful planning to keep them safe.

We are deeply saddened by incidents at any race where dogs and/or mushers are injured, but we must study these incidents to understand would types of policy or procedures can help prevent similar problems from happening in the future.

posted on 2/18/2013 12:17 AM by Todd Brassard | permalink | Back to Top

CopperDog Through the Eyes of a Young Volunteer

Okay I really don't know what to say so... I will start with this. My name is Maddie Longpre-Harrer I'm 12 years old and I'm from Calumet Michigan I'm a 7th grade student. I go to CLK ( Washington Middle School). One of the best parts of going to school here is students, teachers, and other people come up to me and ask me about the CopperDog. It's even cooler when I can answer the questions they have. When it gets close to race weekend people come up to me and say "Are you involved this year?" and my favorite answer for them is "yes." They ask questions about the mushers and most of the time I can answer them. I get to tell them I got to meet one of the Redingtons. People don't know who they are and then I have to explain it and then they want to know more about them and meet them. I get to talk to the mushers get to know them and have a fun time with them. I talk about mushers that are coming from great distances and mushers that live right here in calumet! I love when I can get together with the mushers and get to see them and talk to them and all my friends are like " We don't know who that is so will you stop going on about them!" I respond back to them "no" because it's such an exciting, amazing, fun filled weekend with everyone who is involved.

My dad is Doug Harrer and he is one of the board members. He has been involved since the beginning. I have been involved with the CopperDog 150 for every year I think. I have handed out the bibs every year. This year I get the honor of shadowing my dad and also handing out bibs at the bib draw. Also this year I asked if I can be with my dad 24/7 right by his side learning the ropes of what I want to be my future to be like. I get to see all that happens behind the scenes. So basically this year I'm a Junior Official. Most of my friends are 13 so they can handle the dogs this year I'm over here like I have been handling the dogs. Last year I got just a little of what it's like behind the scenes. It was on Sunday. I got to ride with my dad, Lyle Ross, and one of the HAM radio operators form Michigan Tech. That was one of the best experiences of my life. This year my dad bought new radios and headphones, one for himself and he got one for me. No words could explain how excited I am about this year! I am so stoked to get to be with my dad learning the ropes of what I want to be my future to be like.

There's something about the community coming together all the volunteers, vets, officials, board members, and many more people I'm forgetting that make me love this race that started small and turned out bigger than I could ever imagine. I have the honor to say I know such respected people like the CopperDog board all the mushers and officials. Especially my dad. Brad King, Walt Kiiskila, Renee Cunningham, Meredith LaBeau, Todd Brassard, my dad Doug Harrer, Brett Matuszak, Dave Olsson, Ken Stigers, and everyone else are amazing individuals that come together using their strengths to make this race happen. They take time out of their busy schedules to do this for everyone. They are the people who inspire me to go a little out of my comfort zone, I can trust them, I can tell/talk to them when I have a bad day because they are like family. As I sit in study hall writing this I think back to all the memories I have with them because as I love to say the CopperDog150 is my dysfunctional family.

posted on 1/16/2015 12:57 PM by Meredith LaBeau | permalink | Back to Top

Snowmobilers and the CopperDog150

The CopperDog150 is very fortunate to be able to use the world famous Keweenaw snowmobile trails for much of the race course. These State of Michigan DNR snowmobile trails do not get closed for the race. We are guests on the trail system and are very grateful that it is shared with all the snowmobilers who come to visit our peninsula.

We secure permission from the State of Michigan to use the trail system for the weekend of the CopperDog race each year. We also obtain written permission from each land owner of any property that is part of the race course. Some of our great sponsors are snowmobile dealers and/or rental businesses that have embraced the race. The race course is extensively marked and snowmobilers on the trail are aware that the race is occurring. There are two lead snowmobiles and two sweep snowmobiles that mark where our dog teams are on the trail and act as a warning to others.

We have gone to great lengths to try to inform all that visit the trail system that the race is occurring. Maps of our race overlaid on the DNR trail map with the times that the sled dogs will be on which section of trail are passed out to all local gas stations, hotels, and businesses that cater to snowmobile tourism. We have worked very hard to establish a good relationship with our visitors.

Many in the snowmobiling community eagerly await race weekend and bring their families to watch the race out on the trails. The CopperDog has become an event for all to share and enjoy!

Our Trail Crew in Action

posted on 2/10/2018 9:31 PM by Jim Northey | permalink | Back to Top

About Volunteer Loyalty

A few years ago a rather prominent event planner in the Keweenaw told us that “CopperDog has an amazingly high level of volunteer loyalty; people just keep coming out year after year to support this event.” We reflected on this comment and agreed; CopperDog has an amazing turnout of volunteer each and every year, but why? “Why do people come out for CopperDog?” is one of those questions that we have been asking for years and never been fully able to answer. 

We suspect the answer has something to do with “inclusion”. Where so many events like foot races, bike races, ski races, triathlons, and various other sports tournaments are focused on the sport and on the athletes, CopperDog is focused much more strongly on community and the idea of people and organizations coming together to do something truly wonderful.

Look around, athletes are everywhere: walking, running, biking, skiing, swimming, skating, and playing all kinds of sports.  But people dedicating their lives to gliding down a trail scrutinizing dog butts, that is far less common; in fact it’s incredibly rare comparatively speaking. 

What our volunteers do have in common is the love of the Upper Peninsula, the Copper Country and the Keweenaw. The CopperDog 150 ultimately earns volunteer loyalty because they love this place in which we live, they love the life and vitality that the CopperDog resonates, they love being included and playing an important part in a world-class event that happens right in their backyard, and they breath in the magic and beauty of mushing and dog teams races through the countryside and go home feeling inspired, energized and richer from the experience.

Hopefully, the CopperDog will continue to inspire us for many years to come and old friends will continue to return each year and new friends with come out and become part of our family. CopperDog is about inclusion, about bringing people together, about hard work that is totally worth it, about being inspired by moments of true beauty, and the satisfaction that comes from a shared success.

posted on 2/6/2014 10:33 PM by Todd Brassard | permalink | Back to Top

A visual of the crossings staffed by CopperDog volunteers

This map shows the magnitude of the CopperDog racing weekend. Each of the markers is a crossing that is staffed by a crossing coordinator and multiple crossing guards. Each year the CopperDog volunteers rise to the occasion. This year is no different. While we do have the minimum volunteers to cover the race there is still room to volunteer for the CopperDog and join in the fun!

Click Here to Volunteer!

2016 Event Poster

Design by Todd Brassard

2015 Event Poster

Design by Victoria Schwanke

2014 Event Poster

Design by Victoria Schwanke

2014 Full Page Ad

Design by Victoria Schwanke

2014 Buzz Poster

Design by Victoria Schwanke

2013 Event Poster

Design by Audery Small

2013 Buzz Poster

Design by Audery Small

2013 Full Page Ad

Design by Audery Small

2012 Race Poster

2011 Race Poster

2010 Race Poster

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