Life in Alaska: the Yukon Quest

Many regions of the United States have their particular sport they are obsessed with.  Mostly it is football, baseball, or in the more colder states, hockey.  Alaska however, has a love affair with dog mushing.  Of course most people have heard of the Iditarod, the world famous sled dog race from Willow, Alaska to Nome that in part commemorates the 1925 diptheria serum run to Nome from Nenana.  There is one other epic sled dog race that isn’t as widely known outside of mushing circles, but is just as grueling–if not more so–than the Iditarod, and that is the Yukon Quest.

The finish line at the 2012 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks. Look at those happy pups!  Image courtesy of
The finish line at the 2012 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks. Look at those happy pups! Image courtesy of

The Yukon Quest started in 1984 and runs every year in February between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada.  Mushing athletes compete across a 1,000 mile trail following the historic Klondike Gold Rush transportation routes.  There are fewer checkpoints in this race than the Iditarod, only 10 compared to the Iditarod’s 22, which makes the Yukon Quest a true test of the survival skills of the musher and the strength and determination of her dog team.

As with most competitions that happen in Alaska, the idea was dreamed up out of a–well, maybe not a drunken discussion but a discussion over beers for sure. The desire to have a race that tested more raw survival skills was strong. This year will mark the 33rd year of the race which will start on February 4, in Whitehorse and finish in Fairbanks.  It takes teams between 10 and 20 days to finish the race, often through difficult conditions like blizzards and temperatures as low as -60F.

The atmosphere in the two participating cities is truly one of celebration.  The fanfare at the start and finish of the race is impressive with people even showing up when temperatures dip to -40F.  Following updates on the radio and newspaper, people crave stories from the trail, and after taking a moment to listen to these stories it is understandable as to why.  Mushing is exciting and the Yukon Quest has to be one of the most exciting sled dog races in existence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s