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! 2021 should be the best year yet, so make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun!


Volunteer sign ups is now open 
See below for more information on some of our volunteer opportunities
scroll down to register


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


Volunteer Opportunities

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. Some 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.  We have volunteers assisting the mushers to get their teams to the starting line, setting everything up, running headquarters, helping with banquets, and many other roles that make this North America’s Premier Sled Dog Race Series!

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 and community events! 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:

Musher Check-in is held in conjunction with Vet Checks on the Saturday before the race start (Jan. 26, 2019).  Volunteers assist mushers in signing posters and trail mail, making sure that every registered musher has completed these mandatory tasks.  This is a great way to get to know the mushers and interact with them in a warm environment!

Volunteer needs can vary from year to year for this banquet.  There is always a need for volunteers to sell posters and programs, take “tickets” and sell additional entries into the event.  Additional support may be needed to hang sponsor banners, set up the banquet area and other tasks. Opening ceremonies is always the night before the race and features the bib draw and swearing in of mushers as postal carriers so they can carry Trail Mail.    Check our volunteer sign up page for a full listing of opportunities. 

It’s “showtime!”  Up to 80 mushers, 600 dogs and 4000 spectators enjoy this race. There is a tremendous amount of set up work to do, banners and snow fence to set up, tents to erect and hundreds of spectator vehicles to park before the mayhem begins. And then, of course, everything needs to come down once the dog teams are off on the trail.  If you volunteer for the start, be ready for fast paced excitement as the sled dogs instinctively know it’s 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.

Two to three volunteers are needed on Saturday to mark off designated parking spaces for the dog trucks. On the day of the race, volunteers will direct trucks to the appropriate spots.

Volunteers provide a variety of services from selling raffle tickets and posters to assist with crowd control and parking.

If you want to “get your hands dirty,” our 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 at the start of the race. Volunteers will assist mushers with moving their dog teams from the dog truck to the starting line. Volunteers should be bundled up in warm clothes and have the ability to run while holding a gangline of very excited dogs.  You will be placed on a team of volunteers and assigned to several mushers who you will help get along with their teams of dogs to the starting line.

Volunteers are needed to help with ticket sales, poster sales and other tasks dependent on the venue.

Volunteers are needed to help with ticket and poster sales and other tasks.  See our volunteer signup page for a full listing.

Safety communications for the Beargrease is provided by BARC.  If you are able to help with their needs, please visit their website: www.beargreasearc.org

Another exciting 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 sometimes from the crossing racers. There are numerous road crossings all along the route of the Beargrease race, and some of these 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, perhaps 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. From set-up to tear down this is your opportunity to be in the heart of the race. Checkpoint volunteers perform a number of essential tasks including; checker, timer, trail help, leading teams in and out of the checkpoint. Some checkpoints have limited access to plumbing and hot food, others are at businesses and community centers that provide much welcomed amenities.   Expect to be outside exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time, sometimes with little or no sleep.

General Checkpoint Information

The first checkpoint of the race, this is the only checkpoint that will see teams from all 3 races. Volunteers will control traffic on Hwy 2 and Alger Grade in addition to checking teams in and out of the checkpoint, leading teams to their resting spots and answering questions for spectators. Expect to be outside and exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. The Beargrease 40 will finish at this checkpoint.

The Finland stop offers good food and refreshments in a spacious, beautiful, heated Community 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. This is the last checkpoint to host both the Marathon and Beargrease 120. Expect to be outside and exposed to the elements for extended periods of time.

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.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 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 ensure 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. Parking is limited.  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 ensure the safety of the dogs,
  2. No whining about the cold, and
  3. You must have fun!

Volunteers will perform tasks including checking teams in as they cross the finish line, assisting them in getting to their trucks if requested, and recording and reporting their times, in addition to set up and tear down.  Beargrease 120 teams generally finish early Monday morning, requiring volunteers to be on site in the wee hours of the morning until the last team comes in and the checkpoint is closed.

This spot up the Gunflint Trail has a unique wilderness setting without as much of the madness that is found at other checkpoints. 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.

Skyport Lodge on Devil Track Lake serves as a checkpoint for marathon teams 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 for the marathon, this quaint location is where teams are to take their final 4 hours of rest. Volunteers aid in set up and clean up in addition to regular checkpoint duties of timing, directing teams in and out of the checkpoint and interacting with race officials and the public.

The Grand Portage community will welcome Marathon teams across the finish line at Grand Portage  Lodge & Casino. Volunteers check mushers in as they cross the finish line, record and report times, and various other tasks, such as interacting with race officials and the public. 

Other Opportunities

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

If you have time, energy and a willingness to help out  please click on the button below for the official volunteer sign ups

Click here to become a volunteer