Dog derby on ice a slippery challenge

19:01, Jun 26 2014
dog derby
ROUGH AND TUMBLE: Brad Saville, left, of Queenstown, and his cream-coloured dog Cliff, were second in the townies’ dog derby race in the Queenstown Winter Festival at Coronet Peak yesterday. Nikki Cameron, right, and her dog Spook, didn’t place.

Icy conditions created carnage on Coronet Peak as Queenstown Winter Festival dog derby competitors were sent sliding down the slopes and crashing through barriers yesterday.

More than one person stumbled to the finish line with a bleeding nose while others sustained bruises and bumps in the chaos.

During the "townie" event, where man and dog tumble down mountainside together, competitors were unable to stand on the frozen surface, and sliding down the Shirt Front run the only ways possible - on bottoms and fronts.

Many unwittingly bypassed the finish line, crashed through barriers and on down the hillside. It was then impossible to return uphill in the ice to the finish, where it was necessary to have dogs sit on a Winter Festival flag to claim a place.

Ultimate winner Sean Beale, of Queenstown, who raced with huntaway companion Sox, said there was not much technique involved.

"You just had to go fast and go for it. It was absolute carnage."


Fearing the consequences of racing on the deadly ice, the course was changed for the farmers' event into nearby tussocks but the resulting chaos was almost as complete.

Twenty-year veteran and Wakatipu farmer Chris Dagg was delighted to find himself on the podium, albeit in third place, for the first time since he began competing.

"I took the conservative approach," he said afterwards.

The farmers were required to complete the downhill run before standing at the finish line and calling their dogs up and through some gates. Usually there were so many people calling at once the dogs struggled to hear their masters. However, this year as others moved away Dagg found himself able to call more easily to Bully.

"It was a bit of luck really but I've got there eventually."

The winner of the farmers' event was Hayden Ross, of Nokomai Station, with heading dog Gem.

The event is one of only two Winter Festival features to appear in the first festival 40 years ago and still be running this year.

The Southland Times