Thirty-two years have passed since four dog mushers sat around a table at the Bull’s Eye Saloon in Fairbanks and pondered the idea of a new type of sled dog race.
This year, on Feb. 7, the much-anticipated Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race will once again take off from Whitehorse, Yukon, and finish in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the first team crossing the finish line to the sound of a cheering crowd. Starting Feb. 1, there will be a number of Yukon Quest events happening in Whitehorse and Fairbanks for people who want in on the fun (without the hard work of joining the race).
Whitehorse is celebrating the Yukon Quest big this year with the weeklong Quest Fest – a series of events including dog mushing rides, Yukon Quest film screenings and presentations by Yukon Quest dog mushers. The events will take place at the Old Fire Hall and Shipyards Park.
On Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m., fans will have a chance to meet the mushers at the Grey Room in the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre in Whitehorse. The mushers will tell tales from the trail and answer questions about the race, their dogs, training and how they stay fed throughout the race.
Saturday, Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. at Shipyards Park is where you’ll want to be if you must choose just one Yukon Quest event. The scene at the start of the race is just as heart-pumping and thrilling as the finish. You can hear the dogs for miles; barking, yelping, howling and pulling on chains. To a person nearby, they could easily be mistaken for a pack of wolves. But when you see them, they’re not nearly as large, fierce or threatening as they sound. Sled dogs are fairly small and skinny, and mostly really cute. But don’t be fooled by their lean physique — these dogs have unbelievable strength that keeps them running for more than 100 miles a day and an iron will to win.
For people traveling to the finish, there is another opportunity to meet the mushers post-race at the Alpine Lodge in Fairbanks on Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m.
The nail-biting anticipation to see who will win comes to an end about 10 days after the start. After the first team pulls into town the rest follow at a speedy pace. We can’t predict the exact finish date but the staff at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel will gladly assist with a list of fun Fairbanks activities to do while you wait. The Finish and Award Banquet will take place at the hotel’s Gold Room on Feb. 21.
To read more about the race, visit the Yukon Quest official web page, where you will also find live coverage of the mushers’ progress.