Freezing cold Holiday Classic sees another Raymond Alexie win
Some dogs jostled around inside their hay-filled kennels while being dragged by a snowmachine from nearby tundra villages. The bumpy trails rocked some to sleep on their travels to Charles Family Lake for the start of the 50-mile Holiday Classic race. It was a rude awakening when the biting wind hit their snouts.
Race day was 3 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with near-20 mile-per-hour winds blowing northwest to southeast, so Kuskokwim 300 (K300) Race Manager Paul Basile waited for the race start inside his red truck with the K300 logo on both the driver and passenger side doors. He held a clipboard as he checked teams off with a pencil when he saw them line up through the window.
“Really cold, windy day here for the Holiday Classic. We had three teams withdraw. We had 17 sign up and 14 racers [show up],” Basile said.
There’s an eight dog limit for each team. Mushers put harnesses on each dog, then clipped them on to their respective sled lines. Most of the dogs wore bright-colored nylon booties.
This pre-race ritual brought the dogs to life. Sleds struggled to remain anchored to the frozen lake, and sled lines jerked and tightened as the dog teams barked and jumped. One musher was dragged for several feet before other mushers came to his aid. The dogs couldn’t contain themselves; they needed to run.
The Holiday Classic is a mass start, so teams have to file and zipper up through the trail.
After Basile started the race, the barking diminished as the last team departed toward the horizon. The 14 teams left Charles Family Lake and traveled north over land toward the river. They then descended on to the river trail above Schwalbe Island and continued on the trail to Akiachak. Between Akiachak and Akiak they came to a turnaround and returned to Bethel on the same trail.
After 4 hours and 14 seconds, 20-year-old musher Raymond Alexie won his ninth consecutive K300 sponsored event, dating back to the 2022 Season Opener.
Alexie’s dogs Apollo and Rustler led the team.
“When we took off it was good. It was soft trail, until we got onto the Kusko and it was, um, when I got onto the Kusko it was packed,” Alexie said.
Alexie said that he was not affected by the cold.
“Not really, just maybe when coming back from the Kusko,” said Alexie.
On the way back, Alexie said that the conditions were challenging.
“Tougher when I got into that land because of the headwinds and snowdrifts,” Alexie said.
Alexie received $3,200 for coming in first in the final race of 2023.
Pete Kaiser arrived in second place 28 minutes later. He stayed just long enough to pick up his $2,900 check and continued mushing home.
Three minutes after Kaiser, Alexie’s father, Harry Alexie, crossed the finish line to earn $2,600.
Harry said that the conditions were windy and slow.
“It's been a windy and tough trail. At least for once I wouldn't mind racing a fair, fair weather trail. Hard, and no wind, and no, no weather,” Harry said.
Racing is in the Alexie bloodline, and Harry is thrilled about his son’s performance.
“Ah, it's very proud, you know, I couldn't ask for a better, better team now. He's been working hard throughout his school year and once he graduates, you know, he's 110% effort for them. So hard work pays off, I think,” Harry said.
Fr. Alexander Larson finished fourth, and fifth place was Darren George. The complete race results can be found on the K300 website.
The first race of 2024 is the Bogus Creek 150, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Jan.13, 2024. Registration will open soon.