Musher ready for 100-mile race

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Butch Parr, a longtime resident of Whitefish who now has a home closer to Olney, says the reason he has been sled dog racing for more than two decades is simple.

“I really love dogs,” he explained over the phone during a break from his regular job as a home-builder. “I’m an outdoorsy person, and I like cross-country skiing, but with sled dogs, you can cover a lot more distance and see a lot of country. I really do it because I love animals, though.”

The first-ever Flathead Sled Dog Days race series is scheduled for Jan. 4, 5 and 6 on a 100 mile-course in the Stillwater State Forest.

Parr will ride a sled behind his 12 Alaskan huskies on Saturday and Sunday, competing with at least 16 other 12-dog teams. Each day, the racers will cover 50 miles of snow-covered, hilly terrain, but Parr says his dogs are up for the exertion. There will also be a full slate of 6-dog teams.

“These dogs have a natural ability to pull and they love the cold,” he said. “They are considerably athletic, racy, with good feet and a healthy appetite.”

He said his dogs love racing and come from a lineage of racing dogs.

“In the summer we train by pulling an ATV,” Parr said. “We are training and breeding to be able to run longer races later this year.”

Parr was the 1996 and 2000 champion of the Race to the Sky, a well-known dog sled race on the Continental Divide near Lincoln.

“It was a 550- to 600-mile race in the early 90s,” he said. “Now it’s been abbreviated to a 350- to 360-mile race, but it’s still the premier event in Montana.”

Parr said he got hooked on sled dog racing after watching a friend compete in a race shortly after he moved to the Flathead in 1976.

“I saw a race, then before I knew it, I had two or three dogs, and from then on I just kept getting more dogs,” he said.

Parr says he has 25 total dogs at his kennel, but some are “retired” and more than a few are puppies, waiting for their chance to get in front of a sled.

Parr said he used to live just outside of Whitefish, but when the Whitefish Hills became too developed, he lost his prime training ground, so he moved farther northwest towards Olney.

“It’s an ideal spot. I can go as far as I would ever want to go,” he said.

The 12-dog teams will start and finish at Crossover Road and U.S. Highway 93 at milemarker 145, beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Mushers and their dogs will be at the Armory in Whitefish on Friday for a veterinary check-up from 3-5 p.m., with the public invited at 6 p.m. For more information, visit online at www.flatheadsleddogdays.com.

Source:The Whitefish Pilot

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