Ray, Minnesota. It's up near the Canadian border, nestled in a land of record snowfalls and blisteringly cold temperatures. If you're gonna live up there, you gotta embrace fresh powder and frigid cold. Duluth Woman Model Amanda does exactly that.
Amanda's journey through ice and snow started with shredded furniture. Ten years ago she adopted her first dogs – an Alaskan Malamute and a German Shepherd. They began tearing apart her house with their frenzied energy. Her breeder recommended she hook them to a children's snow sled for exercise. She did, and before long it wasn't just the dogs who loved the thrill of the ride. Amanda began to set her sights on more than just fun runs. She entered and placed in organized dog sled races and even started her own team – Snomad Racing. What's the meaning of the name? "Like nomads, we travel all over – finding that which sustains us: new races, new trails, new beauty, new challenges and new snow. That's Snomad Racing."
WORKING UP AN APPETITE
Unlike the joy rides, organized races take monumental amounts of year-round training, dedication and plain old elbow grease. The dogs, over a dozen of them, consume thousands of pounds of food. Some she gets from a sponsorship, the rest is obtained from local beaver trappers. This spring's harvest of ground-up beaver was around 6,000 pounds, not including the tails, which the dogs consider a delicacy.
IN THE NORTHWOODS, NATURE REIGNS
Yet sometimes all the blood, sweat and tears don't pay off. Two years ago Amanda and her team placed 4th in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon – their first time running it. It's a 400-mile, 4-day race from Duluth, MN up into the Boundary Waters and back. A big feat! But the weather during last winter's race was brutal. There was wild snowfall, whipping, screaming wind and bitter cold. She didn't place. Thankfully, at the end of the ordeal, Amanda and her dogs were only a little worse for the wear.
This year, Amanda will race the Beargrease again, and she's determined to place higher than ever before. Why does she do it? Because sled dog racing is her passion. "I love animals and the outdoors, and I love activities that challenge me physically, emotionally and mentally," says Amanda. "Sled dog kennel life is hard work! But it can be very enjoyable, too." The trail still beckons, even through tough times and the wildest weather.