The history of Polardistans

Polardistans history

In the late 90s, some polar dog enthusiasts organized a long-distance race which ran 300 km called the Technical Trail. The idea was that purebred polar dogs would be offered a competition that corresponded to their original use. The start and finish were at Femundtunet in Norway and the course ran on both the Norwegian and Swedish sides of the border. After two completed competitions, the competition was canceled and then some Swedish drivers decided to take up the baton and create a continuation of the Technical Trail. And so it happened, the long-distance competition POLARDISTANS was born.

The first edition of Polardistans took place in 2001 and had the start and finish at Mörkrets Fjällgård, which is a few miles west of Särna, and the first year 10 teams started (!). The competition then contained only two classes, one in sled and one in sled dog style. Winners in the respective classes were Annika Karlsson and Kristin Esseth respectively. Mörkrets Fjällgård was, however, not a completely ideal place, it was a total white spot on the cell phone map. The competition was already moved the following year to Särna with start and finish at Särna Camping.

With the move, the opportunities to develop the competition increased and the number of starters thus slowly but surely increased to be up to 46 starting teams in 2009. In 2003, the 300 kilometer race was supplemented with one of 150 kilometers, which later became 160 kilometers and thus today’s concept Polardistans 160 (PD160) and Polardistans 300 (PD300) was what it is today. The idea of introducing PD160 was to create a recruiting class, but reality has shown that this class stands well on its own two feet and in 2009 there were more starting teams in PD160 than in PD300. There are probably many reasons for this, but a common argument that I have heard is that many people feel that they and their dogs are not trained enough for the longer distance and that they therefore choose the PD160.

In 2008, an attempt was made with a distance of 400 kilometers. The distance received 6 entries but only one team made it to the start and this team also completed the competition. Maybe the marketing wasn’t good enough to get a bigger starting field, maybe it was coincidence that so few started. Due to the low interest in this distance, it was deleted from the program in 2009. If and when it will possibly return, no one knows today.

2014 was a special year, because it was the first time since Polardistan’s start was moved to Särna in 2002, that the start and finish have not been located there. Due to the exceptional weather that prevailed in the weeks leading up to the race, the race management had to make major changes to the course in order for the race to take place. The start and finish were moved to Lövnäsvallen and those who ran the PD 300 had to run two laps of the same track.

International interest in the competition increased over the years and in 2016 Polardistans 300 received the status of WSA-EC. The years 2017 and 2018 raised the competition’s status further, and both Polardistans 160 and 300 were then given the status of WSA WC. In 2019, there was no international title to compete for.

n 2020, the 20th edition of Polardistans took place and then Polardistans 300 again had the status of WSA-VM. This edition came to be very special, i.a. due to the difficult weather conditions (large amounts of snow combined with strong wind) that prevailed during the competition. The PD300 8C and 12C classes were scrapped and tracks were rearranged and the PD160 was allowed to take over the WC status that the PD300 had previously held. For the PD300 sled and sled 8B classes WC status remained as they had started before the decision to re-lay courses and stop the start for PD300 sled 8C and 12 C had been made.

In the 2021 edition, the PD 300 again had WC status and a novelty for the year was that the competition would be conducted in collaboration between SPHK, IFSS and WSA. This collaboration meant that A-dogs would be allowed to participate in the competition for the first time. However, the worldwide pandemic, Covid-19, meant that the competition could not be carried out.

In 2022, the PD300 was again given the same WC status according to the same criteria that was decided for 2021 and this year the competition could be carried out.

In this attempt to write the history of POLARDISTANS, I have intentionally left out all the people who have made the competition possible, ie. all functionaries. The reason for this is that I think it is difficult to single out a few individual names because then you also risk forgetting others, others who may not have had as exposed a position, but who have been just as important for the competitions to become so good as they have become. I would therefore like to say a big thank you to all of you who have been officials in some form during the competitions that have been, no one mentioned, no one forgotten.

Lennart Andersson