Pedigree® Stage Stop Race Musher Alix Crittenden

Introducing Musher Alix Crittenden.

Mushers sure a different breed, when you apply the standards of  “normal“ society.  Their priorities are a little bit different than most peoples. This Facebook post from Alix Crittenden sums it up pretty well:

Dog mushers are a strange sort…. We travel around with a truck full of dogs and raw meat. We go out in -30 something weather – blowing snow – howling wind. On any given day you might find thawing meat in our hotel bathroom, poop on our boots, dog slobber on our parkas, tripe in our soap bar, dog hair in our whiskey. We strain our muscles, get scratched on the face and neck loading upper boxes, get all up in boxes full of wet/frozen pee straw to give our dogs somewhere nice to sleep. You might see us walking around hotel lobbies in our mukluks or bunny boots, in our stinky long underwear (that usually have holes in them), in our funny hats of choice. We’ll look tired, beat up, whipped. Usually we are.

However, we love it. Every single bit of it. Every paw, tail, and tongue. Every poo we have to scoop, every storm we have to weather. Every new trail. And most of you normal people don’t and won’t understand it. We don’t expect you to. But yeeee freakin hawww to those of you that do!!!! “ 

Alix Crittenden lives in Bondurant, Wyoming.  She and her husband Sam run Sleeping Indian Outfitters, a family owned business that provides guided horseback rides, hunting trips, and fishing excursions. She has been running the Pedigree® Stage Stop Race for numerous years and is truly addicted. Originally hailing from North Carolina, Alix came west to ride horses and run dogs in 2008. She is running a team from no other than Frank Teasley, who in 1996 with the help of public nurse Jayne Ottman launched the Pedigree® Stage Stop Race.

Instead of catching her on the phone, she answered a few questions in writing, here we go:

How many times have you run the Pedigree® Stage Stop Race?  4 times. The first time with Bill Kornmuller’s dogs after spending the winter in Alaska with them. I have also run the 8 dog once with Bud Streeper’s yearling team that I trained for the winter. And then 3 times so far with Frank as a sponsor. This will be my 4th season with this team in this race. 

What is your best finish? Last year we finished 3rd but that was with some of the top teams having a bit of trouble second to last day. I consider our best finish to be the 4th place we got in 2018 before the format of the race changed. 

Why do you run it? I run the Pedigree® Stage Stop Race because it’s so different from any other race I’ve been to. It’s a challenging race that brings a high level of competition. It’s challenging in many different ways. Not just the course itself but the travel in between and all the banquets and the level of dog care that is necessary to be competitive. Also my sponsor created the race so naturally it’s our main focus because it’s a big goal for him to have a team from his kennel that’s a part of the race. I also love the traveling circus family that we all become by the end of the race. It brings not only the communities of the area together but it brings us together as dog drivers into the Stage Stop Race family. 

Which is your favorite Stage? Why? That’s a tough question.

I love all the stages for different reasons. And I have a bit of hatred for each of them for different reasons as well. Haha.  Historically we’ve done really well at Big Piney but I love the scenery at Driggs (even though the trail itself scares the crap out of me hahaha) The final stage is also a fun one. It’s usually a well groomed trail where you can really turn it up a bit on the last day and see what the dogs have in the tank after 7 days of tough racing.

Thoughts about the shorter Distances? Evolvement of the race? I love the recent changes made to the race. I think it’s opened the race up to a lot of people for whom it may have been out of reach at the longer distances. It did not make the race any easier however. If anything I think it made it WAY more competitive. And it definitely made it faster. 

What other races you run? This year we ran the Rodeo Run in West Yellowstone for our first race of the season and hope to travel to the Yukon for the Babe Southwick Memorial Race, to Anchorage for FurRondy , to Fairbanks for LNAC and ONAC and finish up our season at the Tok Race Of Champions. It is a really big schedule for us this year. We are excited. Last year we went to the Pas and Cross Lake in Manitoba. 

How many total dogs are you training? Currently training 28 dogs in the main crew. 3 x 8 month olds training with some older dogs. And we have 10 x 4 month old pups we are free running. 

What distances do you train?  We free run 3-5 miles in the summer. Then in September We start at 3 miles x 5, 6 miles x 5, 9 miles x 5, 14 miles x 5, 17 miles x 5, 21 miles x 3, 25 miles x 3, 28 miles x 3, 31 miles x 3. Ideally of course. As you know In dog mushing having a plan is really only to make the weather gods laugh at you. Haha. 

How many times per week?We train day on, day off unless the weather is bad or the dogs seem like they could use a little extra rest. Sometimes with longer mileages we’ll take an extra day off here and there. 

How has training, snow situation been? Up until this week we’ve had the best conditions I’ve ever seen here. We usually get tons and tons of snow but this year has been light and the trails have been great. Our first sled run was on December 1st which is quite late for us. This last week we’ve gotten quite a lot of snow and the forecast is calling for more. 

How many dogs from last year? 15 dogs training with me this year trained with us last year. Of those 15, 11 of them ran stage stop for me last year. We have 11 2 year olds in training this year who’s first race season this will be. 

Age of team? My oldest veteran is 6. My youngest dogs are 2. 

Leaders? How many? Names?  Derik, Uno, Apple, Andy, Shawna, Juniper, Aspen, Velvet

How many males, females in team? Intact? All intact (which has been causing hell the last two weeks hahaha it’s heat time apparently )  I have 9 females and 19 males in training right now. 

What are you feeding? We feed RedPaw with ground beef and chicken, liver, fish oil, wheat germ oil, Genesis, psyllium, and zinc. On really cold stretches we add a bit of ground chicken skins for extra fat. 

What is your goal for this year? What are you consciously changing from last year? My goal this year is to be able to hang with some of the best teams in the business. We always seem to be a half step behind them and this year Id like to make them a little more nervous. Last year I did pretty much the same training schedule but I messed up and got nervous about weight at the last minute and upped their fat. When they went onto the truck they blew up like blimps and went into the race quite heavy which I think lent towards their sort of flat start to the race. This year I will not make that same mistake. 

You are running Frank Teasley`s dogs? At his place, as your place?  Yes, Frank Teasley owns the team. But the program is mine. The beautiful thing about working for Frank is that he stays out of the way and let’s me run the dogs and their program completely independently.

Frank Teasley Iditarod History

He provides total support and is behind all of our goals. It is about the best situation I can think of for a dog driver. The dogs have been at my place since December 24 because once we get a little farther along in our mileages we have to travel to Alpine or PINEDALE to train. It’s much easier to load dogs at my house as there are no other dogs around to interfere. I can turn everyone loose and call them over to the truck to load rather than having to bring them all over to the truck one by one on leash. Also I feel like they get a lot more rest on our days off at my house as my kennel is tucked away and the dogs don’t get disturbed by much of anything throughout the day and night. It’s a pretty sweet set up.