Gruelling 1,600 km Yukon Quest dog sled race starts in Whitehorse Saturday - InfoNews

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Gruelling 1,600 km Yukon Quest dog sled race starts in Whitehorse Saturday

A haze hangs around spectators on the Chena River as teams left Fairbanks, Alaska, during the start of the Yukon Quest sled dog race Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. An event considered to be the toughest dog sled race on the planet begins Saturday in Whitehorse. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Robin Wood/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP
February 01, 2019 - 7:58 AM

WHITEHORSE - An event considered to be the toughest dog sled race on the planet begins Saturday in Whitehorse.

Thirty teams from Canada, the United States and as far away as the Czech Republic and New Zealand will vie to win the 1,600-kilometre Yukon Quest, which begins this year in Whitehorse and ends in Fairbanks, Alaska.

For the first time since 2003, mushers must truck their teams between Braeburn, the first checkpoint north of Whitehorse, and Carmacks, about 75 kilometres further along the route.

Race Marshall Doug Harris says a lack of snow made the Braeburn to Carmacks stretch of the route too rough for the teams.

In all, mushers must pass through nine checkpoints, four dog checks, and four mountain peaks, including the 1,200-metre King Solomon's Dome.

The gruelling race was won last year by Two Rivers, Alaska musher Allen Moore in nine days, 18 hours and 53 minutes.

The route follows the Yukon River and the historic winter "highway" travelled by prospectors, mail and supply carriers between the gold fields of the Klondike and the Alaska interior.

Mushers and race organizers are concerned about the lack of snow and warmer weather along the trail, but Sgt. John Mitchell with the Canadian Rangers says a 32-member squad has been working on the Yukon side of the trail and conditions have improved in the last week.

"The low snow conditions allowed us to brush it out a lot better than has been done in the previous years," Mitchell says.

"When you get down to the low stuff on it, and then we got the snow dump ... so it actually set up (well) and we've got a pretty darn good base."

This year's prize purse is $115,000, down slightly from the $125,000 awarded last year, and the first 15 finishers will share a percentage of the pot.

The first musher to reach the Dawson City checkpoint also receives two ounces of gold nuggets, worth about $3,400.

Moore took home just over $23,000 as the 2018 winner and also kept the gold nuggets as he led almost from start to finish.

Four past champions, including multiple winners Moore and Whitehorse resident Hans Gatt, as well as 12 rookies are among the 2019 field.

Quebec's Denis Tremblay, who finished 14th in the 2013 Yukon Quest, drew bib number one at the start banquet held in Whitehorse, Thursday night. (CKRW)

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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