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Yukon Quest, is a 1600 km sled dog race run across the American/Canadian border every February between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Yukon. Because of the harsh winter conditions, difficult trail, and the limited support that competitors are allowed, it is considered the “most difficult sled dog race in the world”.
In the competition, first run in 1984, a dog team leader (called a musher) and a team of up to 14 dogs race for 10 or more days. The course follows the route of the historic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, mail delivery, and transportation routes between Fairbanks, Dawson City, and Whitehorse. Mushers pack up to 113 kg of equipment and provisions for themselves and their dogs to survive between checkpoints. They are permitted to leave dogs at checkpoints and dog drops, but not to replace them and must finish with at least 6 dogs. Sleds may not be replaced and mushers cannot accept help from non-racers except at Dawson City, the halfway mark. Ten checkpoints and four dog drops, some more than 300 km apart, lie along the trail. Veterinarians are present at each to ensure the health and welfare of the dogs, give advice, and provide veterinary care for dropped dogs; together with the race marshal or a race judge, they may remove a dog or team from the race for medical or other reasons.
The route runs on frozen rivers, over four mountain ranges, and through isolated northern villages. Racers cover 1,635 km or more. Temperatures commonly drop as low as −50 °C), and winds can reach 80 km/h at higher elevations. Sonny Lindner won the inaugural race in 1984 from a field of 26 teams. The fastest run took place in 2010, when Hans Gatt finished after 9 days and 26 minutes. The 2009 competition had the closest one-two finish, as Schnuelle beat second-place Hugh Neff by just four minutes.
In 2005, Lance Mackey became the first Yukon Quest rookie to win the race, a feat that was repeated by 2011’s champion, Dallas Seavey. In 2007, Mackey became the first to win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a feat he repeated the following year. The longest race time was in 1988, when Ty Halvorson took 20 days, 8 hours, and 29 minutes to finish. In 2000, Aliy Zirkle became the first woman to win the race, in 10 days, 22 hours, and 57 minutes.
Original photograph modified with OnOne Focal Point, blended layers and masks
Featured in Dogs in Sport