Dozens of canine competitors are sprinting to the finish line.
The 7th annual Grand Mesa Summit Challenge Sled Dog Race kicked off Saturday morning. The two day event will qualify many for the world championship.
At nearly 11,000 feet, it’s the highest sled dog race in North America.
Competitors are from all over, including Lynn Whipple and Laurie Brandt from Montrose.
"Having a group of dogs out in front of you, pulling you through the snow, its quiet, you're hearing their breathing, and you're all working together as a team," Lynn said.
She’s a top ranked musher in Colorado, which makes sense because Lynn has been doing this for over 25 years.
"I’m not as competitive as I use to be,” Lynn explained. “I use to travel and do six to eight races a year. This year I’ll maybe two or three."
One of her favorite places to race is right in her back yard: The Grand Mesa.
"Its some of the best terrain out of any of the races I’ve been to. Very rolling, level, and not anything too steep in elevation climb," Lynn said.
Lynn has fifteen dogs. It was her passion for sled racing that sparked an interest with Laurie Brandt, a former professional mountain biker looking for a fun way to cross train in the winter.
"I love it because I’m outdoors in the winter, I’m staying warm, I’m getting exercise, and I’m doing it with the dogs,” Laurie said. “The dogs are so much fun. They take off fast, you just hang on, and enjoy the experience.”
Race organizers say it’s all about the dogs
Laurie and Lynn’s favorite part is just being out in nature with the animals they consider family
"The dogs love it. The dogs live for this sport," Lynn said.
"It’s just a great win-win situation," Laurie added.
Race winners get a cash prize, but money earned from the event will benefit Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.