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A week-long dog sled race in Wyoming drew a French team to move there

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

A weeklong sled dog race is currently underway in Wyoming. It covers 225 miles over rugged mountains and sometimes terrible weather conditions. And this year, it's drawn a team from very far away. Wyoming Public Radio's Caitlin Tan has the story.

AURELIE DELATTRE: Nice to meet you.

CAITLIN TAN, BYLINE: (Speaking French).

DELATTRE: (Speaking French).

REMY COSTE: Nice to meet you.

TAN: Remy Coste is behind his dog sled in a tan snowsuit on a trail in Wyoming's Wind River range. His partner, Aurelie Delattre, stands by in a red flannel peppered with blonde dog hairs, likely from the team of 10 lean, hound-looking dogs.

DELATTRE: He's going out for 30 - (speaking French).

COSTE: (Speaking French).

DELATTRE: Twenty, 30 kilometers.

COSTE: OK.

TAN: Coste and Delattre are from France and now live in Sweden. Coste has won one of Europe's top sled dog races seven times. Now he's trying to conquer North America.

DELATTRE: If we wanted to keep on winning, we would have stayed in Europe.

TAN: Coste doesn't speak a lot of English, but Delattre explains their commitment to winning on this continent meant flying 31 dogs over from Europe this fall, and they shipped over a giant, blue combination dog kennel and RV, which they live in. It's the size of a city bus.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

DELATTRE: They have their little toys that they love.

TAN: Inside, each dog is treated like an athlete but also a family member.

DELATTRE: Every litter, we choose a name. We have a theme like "Lord Of The Rings," "Star Wars." And so this is Frodo.

TAN: Frodo is black and white. He shyly climbs out of his kennel onto the table for a massage.

DELATTRE: (Speaking French).

TAN: The Pedigree Stage Stop Race Delattre and Coste have been training for is challenging, race director Dan Carter explains, because of its length, fickle weather and trail elevations that can exceed 8,000 feet above sea level.

DAN CARTER: Could be, you know, 40, 45 below zero with the wind chill. And the wind can pick up, you know, the ground snow and create a whiteout.

TAN: Carter says it was started back in the '90s by a former Iditarod racer. And having overseas competitors is all but unheard of.

CARTER: I mean, the effort that it takes to get, you know, your dogs and all your gear across the Atlantic Ocean and get settled and all the logistics.

TAN: The French team is adjusting after a couple of weeks training here. It's their first time racing in North America and their first time seeing cowboys.

DELATTRE: We went into the small restaurant, and one guy came. And he had a cowboy hat. And he was like, oh, I had to catch my horses. They ran away, da-da-da. And we were like, oh, this is so cool.

TAN: Coste and the dogs return after about an hour and a half.

DELATTRE: Oh, they're here.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

TAN: The dogs are panting and ready for water.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS DRINKING WATER)

TAN: Coste talks to Delattre about the outing.

COSTE: (Speaking French).

DELATTRE: (Speaking French).

COSTE: (Speaking French).

TAN: He'll get the next team ready for their training run, only pausing for a cup of coffee and maybe a cookie.

DELATTRE: We found the best cookies ever in the little supermarket. Like, the pumpkin and chocolate chip - oh, best cookies ever.

TAN: Coste hopes to win this race, along with a couple in Alaska, which will help the team afford to stay till next year to compete once more, all while living in their big blue bus. For NPR News, I'm Caitlin Tan in Pinedale, Wyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAPELIER FOU'S "AM SCHLACHTENSEE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Caitlin Tan
Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture. Caitlin comes from a rural mountain town in Western Wyoming. She grew up ski racing, showing her horses in 4-H and moving cows in the high mountain deserts. It was in this town she discovered her love for journalism. Caitlin’s career began in print, interning for the local newspaper. She went on to write and eventually worked as news editor at the Branding Iron newspaper, part of the University of Wyoming, where she later graduated with a B.A. in journalism. Although she was always an avid listener to NPR, she found her love for public radio journalism as an intern with Wyoming Public Media. After, Caitlin spent a whirlwind summer as a fisheries reporter in Bristol Bay, Alaska - international sockeye salmon capital - working for KDLG, the local NPR affiliate station. She was a solo-correspondent based in Naknek - a Native village of 500 people - where she climbed on commercial fishing boats and trudged the rainy, muddy beaches to find the fishing scoop. This job helped her land a producing internship, and later a job as news assistant for NPR’s All Things Considered in D.C. She worked closely with the entire team - helping to produce everything from a manicly decorated Christmas house to live interviews with U.S. senators to an exclusive interview with fashion designer Alexander Wang. All along, Caitlin always knew she wanted to return to feature reporting in a rural area. As shown from her fisheries reporting, she loves to immerse herself in new cultures. So when the Inside Appalachia folklife position opened up she jumped at the opportunity. Caitlin, her boyfriend, and two rescue Border Collies up and moved to Morgantown, WV. As someone who grew up in a rural area, Caitlin understands the value and heritage of tradition and craftsmanship in a culture. She’s very eager to further her knowledge, as well as engage and report on folklife in Appalachia.