Guest Speaker, Urban Mushing Clinic
February 17 – 18, 2007
“Alpine Outfitters, can I help you?”
That cheery voice on the other side of the phone line belongs to none other
than Carmen Rasmussen, co- owner of Alpine Outfitters, a company based out
of Marysville, WA that sells and manufactures different sled dog equipment
and gear. Alpine quickly became our favorite source for harnesses and lines,
as well as other products, not only because they have quality gear but also
primarily because of Carmen’s helpfulness and her willingness to share her
was started by Joe and Becky Loveless in 1988. But in between making the
gear, running the front office, AND racing sled dogs, life just got too busy
for the Loveless family. Fortunately, by what they deemed a “divine
appointment”, Joe and Becky met Carmen in 1999 through the NWSDA (NorthWest
Sled Dog Association) and a friendship and partnership was born. From
hereon, Joe and Becky dealt exclusively with the manufacturing and testing
of equipment while Carmen took care of the retail and marketing side of the
operation. The beauty of this is that it enabled them to run a successful
business and it still gave them time to indulge in their passion --- running
Carmen lives in Marysville, with her husband Darin and
their two children, 15-year old Andrea and 13-year old Chris. I spoke with
Carmen a few days before she was scheduled to fly down to Southern
California to be the guest speaker for our first ever Urban Mushing Clinic.
Urban Mushing: How did you first
get started with running sled dogs?
Carmen: Oh, it was because I
needed to throw away money! (laughs) Seriously, I used to ride hunter
jumpers (horses) all through high school but then I got tired of falling off
on my head. But I do enjoy the partnership and bond that you develop when
you are working together with animals. Then I heard about the Iditarod, and
started reading articles about it and dog sledding. I realized this sport
had a lot of the same things I loved about riding horses: it was
competitive, I can go fast, and I would be training and working with
So you wanted to race in the Iditarod?
Carmen: Well, I really enjoyed
the sport and I thought that I was just going to have to watch it from afar.
But then I found out that we had a club out here called the NorthWest Sled
Dog Association (NWSDA) and I started going to their events and that’s where
I met and started talking to different mushers.
UM: And when did you get your first
Carmen: That was around 1997 or
1998 ---- I got four Siberian Huskies.
UM: What? You didn’t just get
one? You dove right into
it and got 4 right away?
Carmen: Yes, I did. But
eventually, because of my competitive nature, I wanted to go faster so I can
win more races so I got Alaskan Huskies. My kids were also racing when they
were younger so I would let them run with the Siberians while I raced with
the faster Alaskans.
UM: How many dogs do you have
now? And what distances do you race?
Carmen: I currently have six
dogs, all Alaskan Huskies. They live with us in our home where I am licensed
to have a kennel of up to 10 dogs. I mostly race in the 4-dog, 4-mile sprint
class but haven’t had a chance to do much racing lately, although there was
one year where I was the Pacific Northwest 4-dog sprint champion.
UM: What about your husband and
the kids? Do they race as well?
Carmen: Darin used to but he
wasn’t winning races like I was so he stopped doing it. That’s also in part
because he is heavier than I am and other things being equal, mushers that
are lighter in weight have an advantage in the 4-dog sprint races, although
that’s hardly a factor when you race with 6 or 8 dogs. We all used to race
together when the children were younger, but the racing lifestyle just
doesn’t blend well with high school kids as they have so many other
activities that they are now involved with.
UM: And what about training? I
suppose you mostly use a cart to train --- where do you go since you live in
Carmen: Yes, I do have a
three-wheeled training cart that I use. We’re lucky that we have forest
service roads that are 30 – 45 minutes away that have trails big enough to
accommodate the cart so that’s where we mostly train the dogs. If we want to
go dog sledding in the winter, the closest trails are only about 2 hours
away. I usually run 4 dogs in 4 miles with the cart and then switch dogs and
run another group for 4 miles. If Darin is with me, then I am able to run up
to 8 dogs at once --- that many dogs is just too much for just one person to
handle so I limit myself to four when I am training alone. There is also a
short trail close to the house where I occasionally take some of the dogs’
UM: Do you think you will be able
to go back to doing more races next season?
Carmen: I hope so. Joe and
Becky are probably going to cut back on racing the long distance events,
which means that they will concentrate more on racing smaller teams in the
sprint and mid-distance. This also means that instead of having one or two
big teams, they will now have 3 or 4 smaller teams that they need to run.
And since there are only two of them, guess who’s going to be running with
their extra teams?
Carmen Rasmussen is also a member of the Marysville City Council. She has a
degree in Criminal Justice and worked as an inmate counselor for 10 years
prior to taking over Alpine Outfitters’ retail operation. She met her future
husband while they were still in college --- Darin is now a police detective
and has a degree in, of all things, Animal Science.