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Copper Basin is On After Organizers Overturn Cancellation


Fairbanks, AK - The future for a dog sled race between Paxson and Glenallen was in question after most of race board resigned last year.  A series of trail, weather and personal difficulties forced the last remaining board member to post a cancelation notice on Facebook last month.  But outcry from the mushing community gave organizers a reason to regroup. 

According to the Copper Basin’s Facebook page, five board members are required for the race to continue.  There is no contact information for organizers on the race website.  The only remaining Board member, Sarah Valentine was unwilling to comment.  She canceled the race last month, but in an email, she says a group convened in Glenallen on Monday and the race is back on.

Three-time champion Allen Moore says the Copper Basin is famous for drama, mostly of the weather-related sort.  “We thought for a long time people should run that before they’re able to run a thousand mile race," he says, "just because you see every type of weather condition.  Being cold, being snowy, there’s open water, there’s steep hills, there’s shelf ice, there’s cold temperatures.  You get to see everything in a 300 mile race.  It’s just like Yukon Quest and Iditarod, it’s just a little bit shorter.”

The Copper Basin is a qualifying race for both the Quest and the Iditarod.  When mushers heard it was cancelled, many of them scrambled to rework plans for the upcoming race season.  Allen Moore and his partner Aliy Zirkle will run the Kuskokwim 300 between Bethel and Aniak.  That race starts a week after the Copper Basin.

Moore says he and Zirkle aren’t sure yet if they’ll run a team in the Copper Basin, now that it’s back on.

35 teams, mostly form the interior will run a new mid-distance race this year.  The Top of the World 350 runs between Tok and Eagle Village. The list includes Lance Mackey, Brent Sass, Sonny Lindner, Mike Ellis and Josh Cadzow to name a few. 

2012 Yukon Quest Champion Hugh Neff is one of the race organizers. “I guarantee most of the teams coming out of this race are gonna be ready for the rest of there year," he says.  "Like Charlie Bolding said, the Iditarod trail is easy compared to what I do the rest of the year and the way it is around here, it’s more of the real deal as far as old school mushing.  You’re gonna be on your own but, but you’ll have a lot of experienced mushers too.”

It’s unclear if the earlier Copper Basin cancelation resulted in a large field for the Top of the World.  That race commemorates the life of former Eagle Village Chief, Isaac Juneby, who passed away this summer.  It is not a long distance qualifier, but Neff says it could be in the future.

Meanwhile, Copper Basin organizers haven’t announced a purse.  According to their facebook page, they are still hammering out start and finish details as well.