Europe’s toughest dog team race
The Finnmarkslöpet, is Europe’s longest and toughest sled dog race and stretches across Norway’s Finnmark area. You would cover the same distance if you raced from Pajala in the north of Sweden to Stockholm in the south. 1,200 km through a winter landscape as extreme as it is beautiful. Through dense forests and snowcapped mountains. With an average temperature of -30C which makes the dark nights a challenge for both body and mind.
Petter Karlsson and his Alaskan huskies made history in 2016 when he was the first non-Norwegian to win the Finnmarkslöpet. This achievement was so great that two year’s later Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, travelled all the way to Alta to watch Petter Karlsson cross the finish line and congratulate him.
The Finnmarkslöpet is by far Europe’s toughest dog sled race. My ambition is to be the best at anything I do. This means I must win the Finnmarkslöpet.
Petter and his dogs are well-prepared
Along the route of the Finnmarkslöpet race, there are twelve checkpoints with access to straw, cold water and race “depot” bags. The depot bags contain everything the mushers need to continue: dog food, batteries for head torches, dog socks and spare parts for the sled. It’s also possible for the competitors to rest and eat for a short time. 20kg of emergency food for both dogs and mushers are carried at all times on the sleds. It’s important to be prepared in case something unforeseen should occur during the seven days of the race.
Sled dog racing is not for everybody. The dogs must have the stamina and strength to withstand the cold, harsh conditions, and so good training and nutrition are essential. We have fed our Alaskan Huskies Bozita Robur Active Performance for the last 16 years. It is packed full of nutrients selected for high performance.
This season, Petter and his dogs have run over 5,000 km together in preparation for the race. Before the start of the race, they train gently to minimise the risk of injury and remain in top form.
Gaga, the lead dog who will take the glory of the win
The most crucial element in a dog sled race is a good lead dog. It should quickly obey commands and ensure that the other dogs follow. Gaga won the race in 2018 and took the team to a strong lead in 2019. She is a good dog, and she knows it. She always knows exactly where she is and where we should go, says Petter Karlsson.
She proved that she knows best in the dramatic final sprint of the Finnmarkslöpet 2018. With only seven minute’s margin, Petter’s team managed to win the race, despite some unplanned mating going on during a rest break…
It was Helia’s first race and we chose to have her with us even if she was in heat. With a position at the back, it all went fine. Unfortunately, the wind changed to a tailwind, which meant that the males had other ideas and everything turned to chaos. I had to stop for two hours before I managed to get the team back on track. At that point, I was three kilometres behind the leader. Against all the odds, we managed to catch them up and win the race.
Petter Karlsson and lead dog Gaga at the prize ceremony of the Finnmarkslöpet 2018.
The next challenge: Iditarod
Petter’s team consists of many experienced dogs, but he also added a few younger dogs to give them experience.
And experienced dogs are a must for Petter’s next big challenge – the Iditarod in Alaska. This is an annual sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome in Alaska. It has been running since 1973 and is known as the world’s most demanding sled dog race. The gruelling race normally takes between 9 and 15 days to complete through winding mountain trails and rugged, snowy mountain terrain. The race takes place in memory of a sled dog expedition that braved treacherous Alaskan snowstorms, ice and -40 degree temperatures to deliver diphtheria medicine to Nome in 1925. A journey which took 127 hours in freezing conditons.
It is all about belief. Belief in yourself and your abilities, but also in your dogs. Sled dogs are more than athletes. They are superheroes.
A few words on Petter Karlsson
- 45 years old, married with children
- Lives in Slussfors in Storumans municipality in Västerbotten.
- During the season, he employs about six guides to take tourists from around the world on sled dog tours. Visit Petter’s website for more information.
- Won Finnmarkslöpet 2016 and 2018, and had a strong lead in 2019 when the race was called off due to Covid-19
- Find more information on Finnmarkslöpet’s official website.
- Planning to compete in the world’s toughest race IDITAROD, Alaska