The Yukon Quest starts today—sleds, dogs, and plenty of spectators on-line and in person.
This year’s event has definitely been redefined in order to make all “things” work—specifically, by reformatting the race. Essentially, there four distinct races: two in Alaska, two in the Yukon in order to accommodate both mushers, rules and restrictions of both countries.
For those who compete in one race in each country, there is chance to win an additional $5000. This rightly so earns the title of “quest”. Can you imagine the logistics required—not only to cross borders, but navigate the preparation and execution of food drops, check-points, terrain and weather in both venues? There are actually four different trails: today’s (Tok to Fairbanks); February 7th, (Circle to Fairbanks); February 19th, (Whitehorse to Pelly Crossing); and again on the 19th (Shipyards to Braeburn).
Of course, the stakes (“purse” in musher’s language) are high–$35,000 per race! However, when you consider the costs associated with the entire year to get to the point of actually doing the race, it doesn’t seem all that lavish. There’s feed for all those dogs, booties, harnesses, straw, blankets, and all the appropriate gear for extreme weather conditions.
Additionally, there are hazards on the trail. Sadly, a local musher posted her horrifying experience of watching her dog team be trampled by a rouge moose. She also stated that she herself feared for own own life but was rescued just in time. It is not uncommon to encounter wildlife on the trail. However, this particular year has been extremely hard due to heavy snowfall. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted multiple time about the dangers of encountering moose that are “stressed” because they are having difficulty navigating the heavy snow fall in search of food.
This will definitely be an interesting year for the Quest and its participants.
Keep an eye out for updates on-line.