Gee! Haw! Mush!

by | Feb 2022

Klondike dog derby

Josh Hway/Dynamic Photowerks

Klondike dog derby returns to Excelsior.

Water Street in Excelsior will have drivers of a different sort when it welcomes back to town The Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby, set for February 4 (vet checks, Hug a Husky and Meet the Musher events) and February 5 (race day).

The event also hosts the Klondike Village, located near Water and Lake streets. It will be open from 9 a.m.–6 p.m. February 5 and will include a beverage garden, food trucks, s’mores station, fire pits, family-friendly games and official Klondike merchandise.

The race route will be finalized a few weeks prior to the race (which is after this issue goes to press). Planners are considering running the race closer to downtown Wayzata, opening additional viewing opportunities near Wayzata Bay.

It will launch from Excelsior, and the Excelsior Commons will provide a great vantagepoint to watch 35 mushers begin racing, according to Dale Kurschner, event board member (communications) and Excelsior City Council member.

While the race takes only a few hours (The 2020 winning musher finished the course in two hours, 41 minutes and 52 seconds. Last place came in at five hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds.), Kurschner says it will take about 100 hours to prepare the trail on the frozen lake. “This includes charting the course; working with others internally and public safety officials; ordering, leasing and shipping special equipment; and nearly a dozen rounds of packing the snow and creating the trail, so that it is both hard packed and easily recognizable for the dogs on the flat, open lake,” he says.

In addition to the organizing committee, the event comes to life thanks to more than 400 volunteers. Kurschner notes that most of volunteers come from the Twin Cities, northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 2020, some hailed from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.

And the mushers travel a distance, too. This year’s event includes mushers from around the U.S. and Canada, including the Northwest Territories. “Many of our 2022 mushers have won races previously,” Kurschner says. “Our 2020 champion, Dave Hochman, will be returning. We will also be hosting mushers, who have competed in the John Beargrease [Sled Dog] marathon and mid-distance races multiple times, as well many other Midwest races.”

What are the mushers racing toward? Victory, bragging rights and a $40,000 purse.

Parking is available at Minnetonka High School and Minnetonka Middle School West, and a free shuttle service to the event begins 7:00 a.m. from Westwood Church (3121 Westwood Drive, Excelsior, MN 55331) to the Excelsior Library and runs throughout the day until 7 p.m. For event times, race route and other information, visit

Canine Athletes

Great care is taken to ensure the health and safety of the racing dogs. Veterinarian Jackie Piepkorn, DVM, co-owner and operator of the Lake Minnetonka Pet Wellness Center, is the chief veterinarian for the Klondike Dog Derby.

For more than 20 years, Piepkorn has served as veterinarian for many sled dog races in the Lower 48 states, Alaska and Canada, according to Kurschner. “In her role, [Piepkorn] assembles a vet team for the prerace vet check of the dogs in the race,” he says. “This consists of about 20 veterinarians and veterinary technicians, who are experienced with racing sled dogs, including Shane Smith, DVM, an associate veterinarian, who also works at Lake Minnetonka Pet Wellness Center.”

The vet team is also available during the race in the event any dog needs care. “Everything we do is focused on providing the best care possible for these incredible canine athletes,” Piepkorn says.

Lake Mtka Klondike Dog Derby
Instagram: @klondikederby


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