2019 Copper Basin 300 a big success

Published April 2019

Ahtna and BLM work together to support the Sourdough Checkpoint

By Bruce Cain | Specialist Projects Manager, AI

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Ahtna teams have worked together for many years setting up and staffing the Sourdough Checkpoint on the Copper Basin 300 mid-distance, sled dog race, but this year’s government shutdown and some very cold weather added a new layer of complexity to an already difficult assignment in a harsh and remote environment.

But everyone involved stepped up and did a wonderful job making the checkpoint, located at Mile 166, a success.

A week before the race, the Ahtna crew set up a 12-by-16-foot and a 12-by-14-foot walled tent with woodstoves for the mushers and checkpoint volunteers and helped with the set-up of a camper trailer provided by BLM for use by the race veterinary team. Because of the shutdown, it took extra effort to obtain permission to use the BLM equipment. The temperature at the checkpoint during setup was -40°F, but the Ahtna crew and the BLM volunteers worked safely and efficiently to get the facilities up.

On race day, volunteers arrived early and fired up the wood stoves, generator and furnace in the camper trailer. A cellphone repeater was set up to provide communications in this remote site. Initially, the repeater did not work due to a bad connection fitting, and a backup satellite phone was used for much of the race. The bad connection was identified near the end of the first day and cellphone coverage was established.

Kathyn Martin made a wonderful bean soup and Shirley Cain baked lots of yummy cookies.

Many of the mushers, checkpoint volunteers and race officials commented on how much the Sourdough Checkpoint has improved in the last few years. The efforts of the Ahtna team, along with many other volunteers, has been a big part of this improvement.

Ahtna would like to thank all of the employees, family members and community members who volunteer to make the Copper Basin 300 a great event each year.


Ahtna shareholder Jerry Charley Jr. coordinates logistics with a race volunteer at the Sourdough Checkpoint. The Alyeska response base in Glennallen supports the race with construction lighting at road crossings.

Crews set up the Sourdough Checkpoint January 9 in -40°F weather. From left to right: Jan Miller, BLM; Alysia Hancock, BLM; John Leonhart, Ahtna; Trenton Culp, Ahtna; Ray Stickwan, Ahtna. Ahtna supplied the wall-tent frame and woodstove for a mushers’ shelter while the camp trailer provided by BLM served as the checkpoint veterinary station.