Information for Sled Dog Races on Snow!

With two sled races coming up in February, the PSDC wishes to remind mushers about the rules for our races. Tug Hill Challenge is Feb. 16-17 and is open to all mushers in all classes. The Canyon Sled Dog Challenge is only open to 8 and 6 dog sled teams and 3 dog skijor. Be sure to check our events link on Facebook and our website for more info on those events.

We have new rules concerning safety and helmets. Please be sure you have a properly fitting helmet for all races. If you don’t have a helmet you won’t be able to race. The only exception is in the canicross category. Here are the complete rules:

New PSDC Safety and Helmet Requirements

The Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club (PSDC) prioritizes the safety of dogs and participants at all of our events. Thus the Board has approved an updated requirement that mandates that sled drivers wear helmets at our sprint snow races. Information about our current safety requirements follows.

What’s the new helmet rule? From the Club’s Policies and Procedures, the new requirement is

“All drivers in any snow sprint class shall wear an adequate, properly fitting helmet”.

So who has to wear a helmet? Here’s the complete set of safety rules that mandate helmets in different situations:

  • Anyone driving a sled in a sprint race must wear a helmet.

  • Any skijor participant under 18 must wear a helmet.

  • Anyone under 18 driving a sled in a mid-distance race must wear a helmet.

  • Anyone on a fatbike in a snow race must wear a helmet.

  • Anyone (driver or rider) on motorized equipment working as trail help, training or any other use must wear a DOT approved helmet.

  • Anyone on any wheeled vehicle (rig, bike, scooter) at a dryland race must wear a helmet and protective eyewear.

  • All participants are subject to any additional stricter race- or event-specific helmet and safety requirements.

Who doesn’t need a helmet? There are only three cases where a helmet is not required:

  • For anyone over 18 driving a sled in a mid-distance race, a helmet is recommended but not required.

  • For any skijor participant 18 or older, a helmet is recommended but not required.

  • For anyone running canicross, a helmet is not required.

  • For any other situation, you need a helmet!

Do the safety rules apply only to races? No. All safety rules apply to all PSDC events, including club sponsored training events and demonstrations.

What does “adequate, properly fitting helmet” mean? Race/event officials will make the final determination of what is “adequate” and “properly fitting”. Standard ski, snowboard and DOT approved ATV or snowmobile helmets are acceptable for snow races. Bike and DOT approved helmets are acceptable for dryland races. Broken helmets are not acceptable. Helmets that are too large or too small for the wearer are not acceptable. Helmets missing a chin strap are not acceptable; use of the chin strap is required. Plopping a bike helmet over the top of a knit cap at a snow race would not be accepted – it is neither adequate nor properly fitting. The objective is that the helmet fits to behave as designed in a fall.

What if I don’t have a helmet or it’s ruled as “inadequate”? You will not be permitted to start and be on the trail. If the determination is made in the start chute, you must take your team from the chute, get a proper helmet and go to the end of the start line. You will be considered a “late starting” team; your race time begins at your original scheduled start time. Intentionally disregarding a ruling about a helmet or any other safety rule will result in a class disqualification. Race officials may impose additional penalties for repeat offenses.

Do you have a recommended helmet style or brand? No, the club does not recommend a particular style or brand of helmet. We do encourage you to review helmets that incorporate MIPS technology (Multi-directional Impact Protection System).

May a race official waive the helmet requirement? No race official or club official may waive any safety rule.

How does this apply at the Tug Hill Challenge? If you are a skijor participant (skijor class or novice class) and are 18 or older, you don’t need a helmet. If you are a canicross participant, you don’t need a helmet. Otherwise, a helmet is required!

How does this apply at the Canyon Sled Dog Challenge? A helmet is recommended, but not required on race day (Saturday) for anyone 18 and over; a helmet is required for anyone under 18. Helmets are required for ALL drivers on the exhibition day (Sunday), including drivers running the entire distance of the trail.

Are there any other safety rules I need to know about? A race or event may impose additional requirements; these will be listed as part of the race/event registration. For example, kick sleds are not permitted at the Tug Hill Challenge (not permitted at any PSDC race), and sled drivers may NOT be attached to their sled by any means, including wrist wraps. For the Canyon Sled Dog Challenge, a driver must carry first aid gear, knife and spare booties.

What if I have a question? Please ask! You can email your questions to

We would also like to point out that kick sleds are not acceptable in our races, even the junior races. This is a safety issue for us and they don’t meet several requirements.

Fat tire bikes are an up and coming entry. Please be sure your equipment is correct. Standard fat tire bike with working brakes, 1 or 2 dogs. Dogs are harnessed to the bike, not the driver, by a line that is 7-12’ long and includes a shock section. Measurement is from the front tire of the bike to the harness. Choke collars and muzzles are not allowed. Driver must wear a helmet.

For all races: Driver must wear a helmet. Dogs must be current on all vaccines. (Bring your paperwork! It may not be needed, but better to have it. If you are running in pure bred class, bring paperwork for that as well.) A complete set of rules for PSDC races can be found on Policies & Procedures.

Tug Hill distances are approximate at this time. 8 and 6 dog sled class, skijor class: 6.4 miles; 4 dog sled class: 4.5 miles; Junior and Novice class: 2 miles.

Dan Rehak is the race marshal for Tug Hill. Any rules questions will go to him.

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By Nancy Molburg