CADILLAC — No snow, no problem.

This Saturday and Sunday, the Dryland Sled Dog Race will be held at the Lost Pines Lodge at 5881 15 ½ Road in Harrietta.

Race chairperson Matt Woudenberg said the sport of dryland dog racing has grown in popularity over the years as inconsistent snowfall has made sledding in snow more challenging.

He said equipment costs associated with snow sleds also have increased over the years — a problem not shared by dryland sledders.

Instead of rods that slide through the snow, dryland sleds use wheels to swiftly traverse dirt roads and other terrain. The rigs often are made out of mountain bike frames and aluminum components. The lightweight frame allows the dogs to reach impressive speeds; at the starting gate, they burst out at speeds of up to 20 mph, Woudenberg said.

“It’s amazing to see the athleticism of the dogs,” Woudenberg said. “You’d be amazed at their enthusiasm and how much they enjoy running.”

Woudenberg said they’re seeing a lot of interest in dryland racing from young people, particularly those from urban areas that are able to practice on linear park terrain.

That isn’t to say that traditional dogsled racing on snow is entirely a thing of the past; Woudenberg said many of the teams that come out to compete at the Lost Pines Lodge race are getting their dogs in shape for the upcoming snow sledding season in the winter.

Since the dryland races are held when there’s no snow on the ground, temperatures tend to be warmer. To prevent the dogs from overheating, Woudenberg said dryland races are capped at 2 miles, whereas dogsled races on snow can be up to 10 or 11 miles, depending on the size of the team.

“The safety and health of the dogs is a primary concern,” Woudenberg said.

All different types of dog breeds take part in the race, although there are a few staple breeds that are renown for their strength, speed and stamina; one of the most popular are “Eurohounds,” which are crossbred from the Alaskan husky group and any of a number of pointing breeds.

The Great Lakes Sled Dog Association has been hosting the event at the Lost Pines Lodge for about a decade now.

Woudenberg has been involved in dog racing since the 1970s.

“It’s a real close-knit group,” Woudenberg said. “The camaraderie of all the competitors is really special. Everybody helps everybody get to the starting shoot.”

Woudenberg said they’re expecting at least as many teams to participate this weekend as did last year, when 83 showed up.

Hundreds of dogs gathered together in one spot is quite a chaotic scene, Woudenberg said, although surprisingly, there are periods of relative quiet in between races.

Races are scheduled to start at 9 a.m., on both days, with the day ending no later than 2 p.m. Teams will be coming from all over Michigan as well as from other parts of the country.

The races will include four- and six-dog wheeled cart races, as well as two-dog bike races and one- or two-dog scooter races. In those races, riders use dogs to pull them on a bike or scooter. There also are Canicross classes. Canicross is the sport of cross-country running while hitched to a dog. The trick to this event is to train the dog to pull with just enough force to help the runner move forward but not topple over.

The event will be open and free to the public to view. Primos BBQ will be selling food at the races.

Temperatures this weekend are expected to be closer to seasonal norms compared to what they’ve been during the last couple weeks, which have seen highs in the mid-70s.

According to the National Weather Service forecast, a cold shot will move through the area later this week, dropping temperatures into the 40s and low-30s by Friday and Saturday.

NWS Meteorologist Andy Sullivan said it’s possible that some parts of the area could experience the first snowfall of the year, although it likely won’t accumulate to any significant degree or stick around very long.

Sullivan said temperatures should return to slightly warmer than normal by the middle of next week. He said the position of the jet stream has created a persistent pattern of unseasonable warmth in this region. Oftentimes, when these patterns break, temperatures tend to swing back in the opposite direction for a period of time; in this case, that means unseasonably cold temperatures until things even out.

Things this year are lining up to be a La Nina year, which in this part of Michigan means above-normal precipitation and lake-effect snow, along with colder-than-normal temperatures during the winter months. | 775-NEWS (6397)