Mushers in the Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race have departed from Elk Ridge, the starting point in the race that will end in La Ronge.

Racers will stop at checkpoints along the way and are expected to finish at some point on Saturday.

Nine racers are taking part in the 12 dog, 308-mile race, while six mushers will be participating in the eight dog, 123-mile race.

Competitors and officials agree that the race will start on ideal temperatures but the situation could change with warmer weather predicted later in the week and frigid temperatures overnight.

“The dogs are going to like the cooler weather,” says musher, Anna Bolvin. “We’re all concerned about tonight because tonight it could drop down to (minus) 30 or a little bit colder than that.”

“The cooler temperature, with the wind, causes them to burn more energy so you’re probably going to see more dogs running with jackets on to keep them warmer,” says Kate Robinson, the head vet for the race. “With sunny days we can have risk of essentially heat stroke type problems, which I know seems surprising considering its going to be minus eight out, but that’s pretty warm for some of these guys.”

The challenge is an annual event and serves as a qualifier for the Yukon Quest and Iditarod races.

(PHOTO: A musher prepares their dogs for the race. Photo by Travis Radke.)