Dog Days: The 32nd SHCGB Aviemore Rally

Planning an outdoor event in Scotland, in winter, is always a bit of a lottery.  Planning an outdoor event in the Scottish mountains, in winter, is really pushing your luck.  Planning an outdoor event in the Scottish mountains, in winter, that relies on snow? Well that is always going to be a long shot.

Ready to Race - on sledges
The Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain do this every year in late January – when they run their Snow Rally in the Glenmore Forest near Aviemore. This is the one event in their annual calendar when they really do hope to get a chance to let their dogs run on snow, pulling sledges, rather than the three-wheeled rigs that they pull at every other event of the year.

And this year it almost worked perfectly.

The event had been anticipated by the weather gods.  A few days before the event the Cairngorms had been covered by a heavy dump of snow, and after that the temperatures dropped dramatically, down to about –9C.  This left some beautiful tracks around both the Glenmore and Rothiemurchus estates  - the track surfaces were good, the trees decorated in Christmas-card style and the sun was shining.
Forest tracks - Rothiemurchus 
Christmas-ready - Rothiemurchus

Tracks - Glenmore
On practice day there was no question – teams were running on sledges, and the dogs all looked delighted.  Siberian Huskies (and Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Greenland Dogs and Canadian Eskimo Dogs) were all bred for life running in the snow and it shows.  The weather on the practice day also made for great photographs too.

Practice Day - running with sledges
Then it all started to warm up, overnight the temperatures rose and by Saturday morning the beautiful tracks had all gone a bit slushy.  On the high parts of the circuit I suspect that the conditions would still have been better on sledges, but on some of the lower parts the snow had gone completely so the organisers had no option other than to order a switch to the wheeled rigs.  This didn’t dampen the canine enthusiasm any.

The following evening, the temperatures continued to wander up and down around freezing but there was't any fresh snow to replenish the tracks.  The net effect was to leave even more patches bare, and to also transform the remaining snow on the tracks into ice. The worst combination.  The ice patches were too slippery for the wheeled rigs, and the bare patches meant that sledges couldn’t be used.  This was one of the rare occasions where the organisers were left with no option other than to cancel the days racing.
Not so happy - waiting for the journey home
The Aviemore Rally is a fantastic opportunity to see dogs running, hopefully, in the snow.  I've been to the event before, and I certainly hope to be back again next year.

There are more pictures from this years event on my Flickr site.

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