A brief history of the annual "Race to the Sky"

Posted at 9:39 AM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 11:39:35-05

The annual "Race to the Sky" sled-dog race begins on Friday, February 7th. The race commemorates the dogs and soldiers that served at Camp Rimini, a war dog reception and training center.

In 1943, Camp Rimini housed about 800 sled dogs, 100 pack dogs, and 125 soldiers. The dogs were being trained for the invasion of Norway in World War II. Camp Rimini was one of just two camps with the dog training program.

Dave Armstrong, now 99 years old, entered Camp Rimini when he was 22 years old in 1943. Dave’s duty at the camp was to train the dogs, but the invasion of Norway ended up being canceled. The dogs and soldiers at Camp Rimini transitioned into a search and rescue team for planes downed in places like Alaska or Greenland.

A brief history of the annual "Race to the Sky"

The teams retrieved thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the U.S. government and became legendary in dog mushing history. They also brought back soldiers - some alive, and others brought home for a proper burial by their families.

When Dave returned to Montana after the war, he came back and he had enough dogs to form a dog-sled team. “And up in the northwest corner, there seemed to be several guys that had teams of dogs. We finally organized a race every year,” says Dave.

He eventually helped form the Governor's Cup Sled Dog Race in 1986, which eventually became the Race To The Sky competition. Dave competed in the race into his 80s.

The Race To The Sky website has more information, including this overview:

Race to the Sky is Montana’s premier winter sporting event. We are part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown and an Iditarod qualifier. We are recognized as one of the most challenging and beautiful sled dog races in the world. Our Races are a test of physical strength, mental toughness, teamwork, and a special bond between “man” and his canine friends.