Whether you run dogs for fitness and fun, or you are focused on the competition, there are many things you can do to have a safe, clean run. These are some of the equipment checks Howling Dog Alaska’s Customer Advisor and a former champion sprint musher Ami Gjestson would do at the start of the season and throughout the year. Even though most of it relates to driving a team on a sprint sled, you can incorporate it to fit whatever discipline you participate in:
I always start with clean harnesses and coats that had been washed before storing for the summer. Dirt contributes to harness rub, so I washed my gear quite often. Check for harness fit at the start of training, then eyeball the dogs while running throughout the season. Young dogs may still grow over the summer, and all the dogs may muscle up a bit as they get in shape.
Spend some time pre-season going over the working parts of your equipment. I would check for loosened nuts and bolts on my sled, replace any frayed poly rope in my gangline, make sure the gates of snaps, quick releases, and carabiners are working smoothly on all equipment – drop chains, gangline, snubline, picket lines, dog yard tie-outs. Pay special attention to your snubline and snowhook line. They need to withstand a lot of force holding back an amped-up team. I used Kevlar rope for those lines. For skijoring lines, make sure the knots are tight that hold the bungee in place. Also, check that the tug loop knots are tight on your harnesses.
If you want to get really particular when running different sized dogs on a team, it’s helpful to adjust your tug loop size in order to make all your harnesses the same length so they will fit the standard distance between tug line and neckline. On a large size harness, the loop will be smaller, and on a small harness, the loop will be bigger. If you choose so, you can use the single fisherman’s knot, which is self-tightening.
Many recreational skiers don’t think they need to wax their “waxless” touring skis, or only need to wax their skate skis for glide. Skis (and runners) need to be waxed for protection from abrasive snow conditions as well. If you see some white coloring on your black p-tex, that’s a sign of base burn and you need a wax job. Base burn can seal the micro-pores in p-tex and limits the ability to hold wax. At the end of the season, I always iron on a protective layer of yellow or black graphite wax and scrape it off after storing my skis for the summer.
Lastly, check around the truck to make sure everything is secure when traveling. I’ve never lost my sled, but I have backed over my poop bucket. Taking that extra minute can save time in the long run.
Have fun out there!
Should you have any questions for Ami, you can contact her here.