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Lack of snow cancels longest sled dog race in eastern United States

Patty Richards from Vermont takes off with her team of sled dogs at the start of the Can-Am 100 in 2022 in Fort Kent, Maine. The organizers of the longest sled dog race in the eastern United States said Monday, Feb. 26, they are canceling the event due to a lack of snow on the ground. Bangor Daily News via AP File Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — The organizers of the longest sled dog race in the eastern United States said Monday they are canceling the event due to a lack of snow on the ground.

The Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races have taken place in northern Maine for more than three decades, including a 250-mile event that is the marquee sled dog race in New England. But this year, snowfall has been well below average in Maine, and it's not safe to run the races, organizers said.

A forecasted heavy rainstorm and period of unseasonably warm weather also bode poorly for trail conditions, said Can-Am president Dennis Cyr.

“The unique challenges presented by the lack of snow have led us to conclude that moving forward with this year’s race could compromise the well-being of all involved,” Cyr said. “It is a decision made with heavy hearts but necessary caution.”

The races are held in Fort Kent, more than 300 miles north of Portland near the border with Canada. The town has had 46.8 inches of snow this year and normally would have had more than 80 inches by now, the National Weather Service said.

The races were founded in 1992 and they've had to occasionally reroute over the years because of conditions. The race was halted early in 1994 due to thinning ice and a cold snap on race day resulted in last-minute changes in 2017. The 2021 races were also canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event normally brings thousands of spectators and valuable tourism dollars to one of the most rural parts of the Northeast. It's one of many cold weather events that has been jeopardized in recent years by increasingly warm winter temperatures in northern parts of the country.

The Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association also decided to cancel sled dog races scheduled for this month in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the shore of Lake Superior. This month's Pond Hockey Classic in New Hampshire was moved from Lake Winnipesaukee because of a lack of thick ice.

Organizers of the Maine sled dog race said plans are underway to bring back the races next year.

The race is “not just an event; it's a tradition that celebrates the remarkable bond between the mushers and their sled dogs, as well as the rugged beauty of Maine's winter landscape,” said event vice president Sarah Brooks.

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