JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) -- For many of the competitors in this year's International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, mushing is all in the family. And that goes for more than the lineage of the furry athletes.
Of the 22 competitors, there is a husband and a wife, a pair of brothers, and multiple fathers and sons.
"Part of the reason you're seeing families involved in the event is because they can be involved," race director and creator Frank Teasley, of Jackson, said. His wife, Stacey, is running the race.
Unlike other sled dog races where family members could see each other only at the start, the Stage Stop ends in a different town each night, allowing mushers to reconnect daily.
"There's a start and a finish in a different town and a function every single day," Teasley tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide (http://bit.ly/w0aRAd ). "It becomes like one humongous family going from here to Park City, (Utah)."
Modeled after the Tour De France, the Stage Stop race travels from Lander to Park City, a distance of 240 miles.
The race began Friday in Jackson and ends Feb. 4.
With the help of public health nurse Jayne Ottman, Teasley began the race in 1996 as a way to educate the public about dog mushing and the need for childhood immunizations. Each year, the race makes a medical donation to communities on the race route.
With its stellar field of competitors over the years, the Stage Stop has made quite a name for itself. Last year, four-time consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Lance Mackey ran the Stage Stop. In years past, the race has welcomed mushing legends Rick Swenson, Doug Swingley, Jeff King, Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher.
"Seventeen years ago, I said I just wasn't going to put on a dog race, I was going to put on the dog race," Teasley said. "We must be doing something right, because they're coming." Ryan Redington, grandson of Iditarod founder Joe Redington Sr., will be running the race against his wife, Erin.
"He was basically born on a dog sled," Teasley said.
Redington, of Knik, Alaska, ran the Stage Stop last year with Erin as his handler.
"They had so much fun that they both decided to run the race this year," the Stage Stop website says.
The father-and-son duo Warren and Sam Palfrey, of Quesnel, British Columbia, are running the race against each other.
Another family -- a trio from the Northwest Territories -- is represented by brothers Grant and Richard Beck and Richard's son, Brent.
"We don't have the three musketeers, but we have the three Becks," Teasley said.
Blayne Streeper, of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, the defending champion of the Stage Stop, is also competing again this year. He won the 2004, 2010 and 2011 Stage Stop races. He, too, was born into dog mushing and owns a kennel with his father, Terry.
"He always stands out," said race publicist Darla Worden.
But as every musher knows, winning isn't everything.
Streeper said his success comes from his dedication to his pups.
"Although winning is nice, our greatest pleasure comes from watching these outstanding sled dogs excel in their natural environment," he is quoted saying on the Stage Stop website.
Not only a family sport, mushing builds kinship between humans and dogs -- and between competitors.
Stacey Teasley said out on the trail, it's a different experience.
"It's incredibly emotional," Stacey Teasley said.
"They (the dogs) do so much for you, and the whole activity is really based on that trust, that love."