Mexican dogsledders trade dirt for Washington snow

Venus; Speckles; Harry the Boy Who Lived; brothers Bradley and Cooper; Pearl and Captain the big, red Siberian husky: The dogs are clipped one by one into a tether, which itself is attached to a heavy sled with a standing driver. The dogs jump, howl and scream, and their hot breath leaves steam hanging in the winter air. It’s race day, and they're eager to get out on the snow carpeting the forest trails near Cle Elum.

Their driver, meanwhile, has never even been on snow. In Mexico, mushers race bikes through low brush on rocky, red dirt trails. But Marcos Cardenas and his companions, Marcos Padilla and Pepe Flores, are here competing in the Dogtown Winter Derby to learn how to mush on snow. Now there’s no more time for practice: After a countdown, they jolt off toward a distant tree line.

Cle Elum, Washington, is an international hub for mushers from around the world. It’s anchored by Larry Roxby of Flying Furs and the Northwest Dogsled Association, who believes the future of dogsledding lies in building bridges with mushers from different cultures. That story begins with the mushers of Urban Mushing León from León, Guanajuato, Mexico, who hope to build awareness and earn international recognition for their place in a sport where sheer love of dogs can take you far.

But first, they’ll have to finish without getting lost in the woods.

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