Volunteers 2018-08-18T22:14:42+00:00


The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is made possible by volunteers like you. We really couldn’t do this without the support of our community, sponsors, and volunteers on race day. We welcome back our longtime volunteers, and are excited to meet our new volunteers this year! 2019 should be the best year yet, so make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun!

Race weekend is for 2019 will be announced soon. Resources for driving directions and checkpoints are below.

Volunteer registration will open closer to the race season, so check back soon!


Volunteer meetings for 2019 will be announced soon!


Start here to view information for volunteers. We look forward to hosting you in Duluth, Minnesota and couldn’t pull off this race weekend without you!

Checkpoint Directions
Trail Map PDF



Volunteers are a vital part of organizing and facilitating the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. In the past years, many interesting people from all over the nation have done their part to make the Beargrease a great experience. Volunteers provide warmth and good cheer at the checkpoints with warm food and big bonfires. Others camp out at road crossings to assist teams safely across a variety of roads along the way.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers are needed by race time to ensure this event runs smoothly and safely. There are volunteer opportunities for everyone, from those who have experience with sled dog races to those who just LOVE dogs! All areas of the race need volunteers, especially the starting area and various checkpoints. Here is a list of some of the main volunteer opportunities:

It’s an inside job! Volunteers at race headquarters perform the vital functions of receiving and recording official times, updating standings on the web-site and responding to questions from the media and the public. Race Headquarters will be located at the Vanilla Bean in Two Harbors, Minnesota and will be staffed around the clock for the duration of the race. Stay warm and enjoy the race from the inside!

Volunteers are needed early Saturday morning in Beaver Bay, MN to register the mushers, their handlers and their teams into the respective races. This is your opportunity to individually welcome and meet every musher entered in this year’s race.

Fitger’s will host this year’s “Cutest Puppy Contest” on Saturday, January 21st..  Anyone may enter a puppy (age restrictions of puppies apply) to be judged by the public as “The Cutest”. Nearly 40 puppies enter this contest, and volunteers are needed to setup tables, signs, registration materials and escort the puppies to their positions for the judging. Ballots from over 1,000 judges also need to be tabulated quickly as these little canines are anxious for their crown! This is an extremely popular Beargrease event that assuredly draws large crowds. It is the ideal volunteer opportunity for those who prefer the warmth of indoors.

This years ceremonies will be on Saturday, January 27th at Superior Shores in Two Harbors MN. . Volunteers are needed for ticket sales, silent auction and other activities to be determined

It’s “show time”! Over 80 mushers, over 600 dogs and 4000 spectators enjoy this race. There is a tremendous amount of set up work to do, dog trucks to park, banners and snow fence to set up, tents to erect and hundreds of spectator vehicles to park before the mayhem begins. If you volunteer for the start, be ready for fast paced excitement as the sled dogs instinctively know its time to go and they are begging to “get at it”! If you’ve never witnessed a dog sled race start…you will never forget it.

If you want to get your hands dirty on the trail, the dog crew chief is looking for your help. This is a great way to meet some of the mushers and get hands-on experience handling racing dogs. Helpers will need to assist mushers with moving their dog teams from the truck to the starting point. Volunteers should be bundled up in warm clothes and have the ability to run while holding a gang line.

Volunteers are needed to direct people and cars with where to go and where not to go at the Start. For many spectators, this is their first race and there are numerous questions about the race, the dogs, the best place to see from and “where are the bathrooms”.

Volunteers are needed to help with ticket sales.

Volunteers are needed to help with ticket sales.

Safety communications for the Beargrease is provided by BARC.  If you are able to help with their needs please visit their web-site; www.beargreasearc.org

Another on-site volunteer opportunity, this allows people to help teams across road crossings. The demands of this position are to maintain enough snow for teams to cross the roadways, create a “human fence” for trail continuity, and sometimes answer questions from the public about musher status and from some of the crossing racers. Some of these road crossings are rather remote. Many “road crossing” volunteers prefer it that way. Bring a snow shovel, a flashlight or lantern, lots of hot chocolate, a close friend or loved-one, build a huge beautiful warm fire alongside the road and watch the race go right by you, amidst the amazing Milky Way and Northern Lights.

One of the best ways to be directly involved in the race at a checkpoint is to volunteer as a “Checker”. Checkers are the first to greet the teams as they arrive at the checkpoint. Armed with time sheets on clipboards, Checkers quickly and accurately record time in and time out, count the number of dogs standing in the team as well as any dogs in the sled and rapidly check the sled bag to ensure the musher is carrying all the mandatory equipment. As a Checker, you are a vital piece to the success of the race and you have a lot of responsibility with regards to getting mushers in and out of checkpoints quickly and safely, however, expect being outside, exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time with little or no sleep.

Other checkpoint volunteers at these sites get a feel for the excitement and the elements involved in the sport of mushing. Help is needed to assist the mushers in and out of checkpoint locations, set up and tear down checkpoint sites and handle other activities such as keeping large, warm bon fires fed, crowd control and miscellaneous assistance related to the checkpoints.

Checkpoint Opportunities

The Finland stop offers good food and refreshments in a spacious, beautiful, heated Center, which provides a good place for a little R&R; for the mushers, handlers, race officials and dogs. Spectators and volunteers enjoy this stop because they can more easily talk with some of the mushers and handlers.

Seclusion and solitude is why the Sawbill spot is one of the favorites among mushers. There is not much here but the woods, the trail and the frozen Temperance River. This site is a good volunteer opportunity for the person who prefers peace and serenity to the crowds and mayhem at other checkpoints. Volunteers keep several fires roaring throughout the night and keep spirits high. Each year, Volunteers provide tents that act as the Command Center and more importantly, provide lots of hot food and drink (free of charge) to all mushers, handlers, volunteers and race officials. Marathon mushers are most likely to arrive very early Monday morning. On the upward bound route, the Sawbill Checkpoint is designated as a remote “wilderness checkpoint” which means “NO HANDLERS”. The Mushers must provide for the care and feeding of their dogs and themselves. While all the Teams are in the checkpoint, a strict “order of silence” is in effect, as the canine athletes and their owners rest and re-fuel. It is a spectacular sight to see up to 365 dogs all resting together in one spot! Many volunteers are needed to insure that the teams get in and out safely. When Marathon mushers leave this checkpoint they will be heading out on the longest leg of the trail as they travel over 60 miles to Poplar Lake. Returning Marathon teams can be expected back at this location anytime Tuesday. Parking is limited as handler vehicles need room to park (on the downward bound leg) near the checkpoint. Plan on a little walk from your car to the checkpoint. There are three rules that all persons must comply with while at the Sawbill Checkpoint:

  1. Do whatever it takes to insure the safety of the dogs,
  2. No whining about the cold, and
  3. You must have fun!

Located up the Caribou Trail, this secluded checkpoint provides mid-distance teams a chance to rest away from the crowds and marathon teams.  Volunteers at this location keep the fires burning, check teams in and out of the  check point and help to guide the teams safely in and out

The Mid-Distance Race is slated to finish at Skyport at  Devil Track Lake. Expect the first musher to arrive sometime Monday, February 1st. Help is needed to set up the finish line the night before, record finish times, check sled bags, build and maintain warm fires, and assist teams as they pack up their dogs and equipment.

This spot up the Gunflint Trail has a unique wilderness setting without as much of the madness that is found at other stops. Along with a great view of the race, Trail Center offers food and other facilities at this location. Some lodging will also be available along with gasoline.

Marathon teams are the guests of the Grand Portage community at this checkpoint, the halfway point in the race.  Teams are required to rest 8 hours here; times are adjust to account for the start differential.

Skyport Landing on Devil Track Lake serves as a checkpoint for marathon teams on the return to Duluth only.  Warm and welcoming, there is food and some lodging available for volunteers, mushers, handlers and spectators.  Excellent viewing opportunities.  Volunteers check teams in and out of the checkpoint, keep a welcoming fire going and assist in getting teams in and out safely and efficiently.

The final checkpoint before the finish teams are required to take4 hour mandatory layover here on the return leg.

The end of the long Marathon race is a spot full of festivity and excitement. Billy’s offers a great setting to watch the Marathon finishers. Teams come in towards a cheering crowd of fans to receive finisher accolades. Mushers and handlers are almost always willing to share stories of the trail. Help is requested to set up and tear down the sound system, tent, banners and other miscellaneous debris found at the finish line. Other important tasks are greeting all of the finishing mushers with a spirited atmosphere and providing crowd control.

In the weeks and months leading up to the race, we frequently need help from trusted volunteers.  Needs range from website updates graphic design, media and PR, event planning and setup and a wide range tasks.

If you have time, talent and a willingness to help out – please let us know.!