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Ryne Olson at MBES
Ryne Olson lets a student try on some of her mushing clothes.
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Ryne Olson at MBES
Ryne Olson speaks to Mountain Brook Elementary students.
Professional dog musher and former Mountain Brook resident Ryne Olson visited a group of Mountain Brook Elementary students this morning to talk about her life and her team of sled dogs in Alaska.
Olson is the owner of Ryno Kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska and has competed in the famous 1,000-mile Iditarod and Yukon Quest races, as well as winning the 2017 Copper Basin 300-mile race. While visiting family in Mountain Brook, she took time to visit the school she had attended up until third grade. Though she didn't bring any of her 40 Alaskan huskies with her, Olson did bring some of her sledding gear and a presentation to show the students.
She talked about the hard work that dog sledding takes and the challenges — including freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation, wildlife and more — that she must face while alone on the trail with her team of dogs. Olson also told MBE students about the first three rules of dog sledding, which are all the same: "don't fall off."
"If I fall off the back of the sled ... they will keep going. They will leave me behind," Olson said.
Olson also explained the distance some sled races cover — like driving from Birmingham to New York at about eight miles an hour, standing on the back of a sled — and the camaraderie between competing mushers that are racing the elements just as much as they're racing each other.
"It's not important whether you win or lose, it's important whether you survive," she said.
Though she's a relatively new musher and only became a full time professional in the sport this year, Olson said she has seen climate change impact the sport. This year, the official start of the Iditarod had to be relocated from Anchorage farther north to Fairbanks due to lack of snow.
"We've had these new challenges as the climate changes," Olson said.
In response to student questions, Olson talked about the wind storms she has encountered, wildlife such as moose and wolves she has seen on the trail and the way she and friends have created most of their own sledding equipment by hand.
"You have to be very innovative and come up with new things all the time," she said.
The most important part of being a successful musher, she said, is putting the team of dogs before yourself.
"As a musher, you're the vet, you're the athletic trainer, you're the cheerleader," Olson said.
Learn more about Olson's work at rynokennel.com.