It’s happening: Tustumena 200 gets to 30th anniversary after 4 tries

The 30th anniversary of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race has been a long time coming — in fact it’s four years overdue.

Where race organizers have been foiled by poor weather and lack of snow on the Kenai Peninsula in the past, they finally surged forward this year on the 200-mile trail through the Caribou Hills and all the way down to East End Road in Homer. Mushers will take off on Saturday.

Several days of heavy snowfall allowed Tami Murray, race director and president of the T200 nonprofit, to give the race the go-ahead a little early this year. Normally, while organizers work on the race year-round, they make the call as to whether to go forward a week before it is scheduled, she said.

“Everyone’s super excited,” Murray said of the race’s long-awaited revival. “It’s a great community event.”

A loop that begins in Kasilof, the T200 is a qualifying race for those who compete in the Iditarod, Murray said. To enter the Iditarod, a musher has to put in 750 qualifying miles ahead of time, so many mushers use qualifying miles from the T200. This means the race attracts some big-name mushers, Murray said.

The race, which had its first run in 1984, was on track to celebrate 30 years in 2013, but was canceled that year due to lack of snow and again for the next three years. Even though a warm spell has struck parts of the peninsula this week causing snow melt and ice, race organizers are confident the race won’t be affected too much.

Kevin Fulton, the race marshal and trail boss, said members of the snowmachine club Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers who were up grooming parts of the trail Thursday morning reported no rain higher up in the hills. Most of the rivers and creeks are frozen over, he said.

“I think we’re good,” Fulton said.

While Fulton joked that getting the trail ready to race has taken something like 20 years of work, about the amount of time he has been involved with the race, he said he and other volunteers have been putting in plenty of work preparing it recently. Since the race hasn’t happened for a few years, there was some tree and brush clearing that needed to get done, Fulton said.

Additionally, the trail has been mapped out with around 2,500 reflective markers, Fulton said.

“You have to mark it really well, or you’re going to have to go look for somebody,” he said.

Fulton himself is no stranger to the trail, having participated in the T200 in the mid-1980s. The trail is a good one in part because the Caribou Hills offer some more variety and steep terrain for mushers.

“The upper 50 miles is probably the most challenging,” Fulton said, describing areas above the tree line as having steep hills and blowing snow.

Volunteers historically turn out in droves to help with the race, Murray said, and there are about 70 lending a hand this year, including many first-timers. This year’s purse is $30,000, she said, to be distributed among the top 20 mushers. There are 24 teams signed up.

Murray suggested onlookers get to the starting line early this Saturday, at Mile 112 of the Sterling Highway in Kasilof, so as to avoid backed up traffic. The race kicks off at 11 a.m., and mushers can be seen at the checkpoints of Freddie’s Roadhouse on Oilwell Road in Ninilchik, and McNeil Elementary School on East End Road in Homer.

Murray emphasized that pet dogs are not allowed at the race.

The fasted T200 race was completed in just over 26 hours in 1996 by musher Paul Gebhardt, according to the race’s website. The slowest came in 1985, and took three days to finish.

Mushers will participate in vet checks from noon to 5 p.m. Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Reach Megan Pacer at

More in News

Soldotna High School senior Josiah Burton testifies in opposition to the proposed cut of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District theater technicians while audience members look on during a board of education meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board finance group reviews expenditures ahead of upcoming budget cycle

As the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District prepares to grapple with another… Continue reading

Members of the Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee raise hands to vote in favor of a proposal during a meeting at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Silver salmon, personal use fishing discussed by advisory committee

The group set their recommendations on a variety of proposals to the State Board of Fisheries

Hoses pump water along Patrick Drive to help mitigate flooding near Kalifornsky Beach Road on Friday, July 21, 2023, near Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough spent almost $78k responding to flood events during disaster declaration

Most of the funds were spend in the northwest area of Kalifornsky Beach Road

The National Weather Service’s map shows a winter weather advisory, in orange, effective for much of the eastern Kenai Peninsula. (Screenshot)
Heavy snow, blowing winds forecast for Turnagain Pass on Wednesday

Snow accumulations of up to 16 inches are expected

The Kenai Courthouse is seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Grand jury adds charges in October killing of Homer woman

The indictment was delivered on Nov. 8

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchorage resident arrested in Nikiski after troopers investigate reports of stolen vehicle

Troopers responded to a residential address in Nikiski around 11:30 a.m. after being notified by Sirius XM that a stolen vehicle was there

Santa Claus greets Hudson Reinhardt during Christmas Comes to Kenai festivities at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Getting into the holiday spirit

Christmas arrives in Kenai with fireworks, Santa and a lot of rain

Kinley Ferguson tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas during Christmas in the Park festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Creating a winter wonderland

Christmas in the Park to bring Santa, sleigh rides, fireworks on Saturday

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to repair failed wastewater pipe

The pipe to be repaired discharges treated effluent into the Kenai River

Most Read