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Yukon Quest - the crazy race

December 29, 2012

On 2-Feb-2013 hundreds of people will gather on the Whitehorse waterfront to watch the start of the Yukon Quest dog-sled race. It’s a 1,000 mile arduous slog through -40 degree temperatures. It features sleep deprivation and loneliness. The mushers must sleep out and carry their own food with them. Crazy. 

The race course is between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska. The Yukon Quest is known for excellence in canine care and fostering the traditions of northern travel by dog sled. This incredible winter event takes place every February when weather conditions can be the coldest and most unpredictable. The Yukon Quest race starts on schedule regardless of weather and lasts from 10 to 16 days until the final dog team arrives at the finish line.  The Yukon Quest has been run every year since 1984 over rough, hazardous terrain. Overflow water is one of the biggest dangers for dogs and mushers.

The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now comes alive each February with the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs. These sled dogs can outrun almost anything on four legs over distances greater than 50 or 60 miles. They are well-known for their very tough feet, strong hearts and insulating undercoats are incredibly strong-minded while still being dedicated to the humans who love and care for them, and truly enjoy running in harness with their teammates and their mushers.

There are 26 teams registered this year. As well, there is a concurrent race called the Yukon Quest 300, which runs 300 miles from Whitehorse to Pelly Crossing. There are 25 teams registered for the YQ 300, and there’s a waiting list !


The Yukon Quest turns 29 years old this year. It attracts mushers from Canada, the US and Europe to compete. The passion and exhilaration of the race are easy to see, yet the preparation to enter the Quest is critical and complex.

The economic impact of dog mushing is significant, throughout the year. Funds are required to pay for the dog feed, sleds, equipment and training. The mushers must fund-raise as well as to train.