Finnmark dogsled race cancelled over COVID-19 fears

It is freezing cold in Finnmark this weekend with temperatures dropping down to -32°C in the Pasvik valley. A seriously hard challenge for mushers and the dogs, but it is exactly such conditions that since 1981 have attracted participants to race the 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) between Alta and Kirkenes and return.

The pandemic, however, put a stop to the race, the organizer informs in a press release.

“The guidelines in connection with the pandemic make clear that large events bringing together participants from several municipalities and different regions of the country are not recommended.”

Norway has some of the strictest entry rules in Europe, with borders practically being closed since January 29 to all foreigners not living in the country, or specialist workers and employees within health care professions. Several cases of new coronavirus variant have been detected after the new year and authorities fear a worsening of the breakout.  

Last year, the Finnmark race had participants from five countries. For 2021, 94 participants had signed up for the start in the long 1,200 km race (14-dogs), the shorter 600 km (8-dogs), and the 200 km junior-class race (6-dogs).


Hanna Lyrek, one of the youngest participants in the longest race, is one of the mushers who can’t compete this year. Photo: Thomas Nilsen