Local musher, Mandy Collins, to compete in Winterfest sled dog races

Hannah Lantzer, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Local musher Mandy Collins is pictured with one of her Eurohound hybrid sled dogs, Aren, with whom she competed in two-dog scooter race events. Collins and her family currently own 30 sled dogs at their Snow Country Kennels, including several puppies and retired sled dogs. 



Courtesy photo

Mandy Collins is shown participating in the six-dog competition at the Pontiac International Sled Dog Race in Bristol, Quebec, Canada. Her team, led by lead dog Kid Rock (pictured second from the left), earned a second-place finish in the January 2019 event.


KALKASKA – The rescheduled Kalkaska Winterfest is slated to take place Feb. 23-24. As many as 1,000 spectators will pack the Kalkaska Fairgrounds for the festival, which boasts an assortment of family friendly activities, including several canine sporting, as well as a torchlight community trail event, craft show, community breakfast and silent auction.

The most attractive event of the festival is always the historic sled dog racing competition, which includes 10 classes of races and the largest sprint sled dog race in the continental U.S.

With events sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association, the festival provides an opportunity for racers to accumulate points towards year-end medals. The races are expected to draw as many as 150 teams from across North America.

At least one racer will not have to travel far to get to the Winterfest events. Mandy Collins, 24, of Kalkaska, will compete in the four-dog and six-dog sled races.

“I’ve won the four-dog before and usually get around second place in six-dog,” said Collins, who has participated in Winterfest races for the past decade.

“I haven’t done six-dog in a few years since I’ve been in college, but I graduated last year, so I’m excited to be back doing six again this season.”

While ample base snow might not have blanketed the ground for long, Collins’ 2018-2019 season has been underway for months. Her energetic Eurohound hybrid sled dogs follow a strict training routine from September through April each year. When there is not enough snow on the trails during the early season, Collins harnesses her dogs to an ATV for training.

“I train four days per week with no more than two days off between training runs,” she said. “In September, I start out at a mile and slowly work it up from there through the fall. I start out with muscle building and strength training, and as we get closer to races, I’ll work on speed.”

According to the ISDRA website, Collins has already competed in at least five sanctioned sled dog competitions this year, including races in Michigan and Wisconsin. In October, she also achieved a second-place award at the Bristol World Cup Dryland Dog Race in Quebec, Canada. In January, she earned another second-place award in Quebec for her six-dog race success at the Pontiac International Sled Dog Race.

Collins has fallen in love with the sport of sled dog racing in the 12 years since her family bought their first three sled dogs, which were purchased instead of the beagles her father had originally intended to buy at that time.

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