Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race

3rd week in April,
Marsh Lake, Yukon

In 1983, four men, all mushers, sat at a table in the Bull's Eye Saloon, in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The conversation turned to a discussion about a new sled dog race and "what-ifs." What if the race followed a historical trail? What if it were an international sled dog race? What if the race went a little longer? What if it even went up the Yukon River?

As early as 1976, a Fairbanks to Whitehorse sled dog race had been talked of. But it wasn't until this conversation between Roger Williams, Leroy Shank, Ron Rosser and Willie Libb that the Yukon Quest became more than an idea. The mushers decided to name the race the "Yukon Quest" to commemorate the Yukon River, the old highway of the north. The trail would trace the routes that the prospectors followed to reach the Klondike during the 1898 Gold Rush and from there to the Alaskan interior for subsequent gold rushes in the early years of the 1900's.

The first Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race tested both race logistics and the talents of all involved. Twenty-six teams left Fairbanks in February 1984. Over the next 16 days, 20 teams made it to Whitehorse, with six teams forced to drop out along the way. Sonny Lindner became the first Yukon Quest champion, completing the race in just over 12 days.

Now, 27 years later, the Yukon Quest is one of the world’s premier long-distance sled dog races. It is known as a race that is a true test of a musher’s strength, endurance and determination. The race alternates the start of the race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse each year to gives mushers the experience of ‘coming and going’ to their destination and offers greater variety as each direction presents different challenges.

The race is over 1,000 miles in length and the winner usually completes the journey in approximately 10 days. In 2010, Hans Gatt set the record for the fastest time ever when he completed the trail in 9 days, 0 hours, 59 minutes. Mushers at the back of the pack can take up to 16 days or more.

The Yukon Quest receives great support both from its sponsors and volunteers from communities along the trail. Many small communities are along the race route and residents treat every musher that passes through like royalty. Many mushers will tell you this is what makes the Yukon Quest so special.

For more information about the race, visit the official website at yukonquest.com. You can also find the race on facebook at facebook.com/yukonquest.

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• Celebration of Swans
• Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race
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• 24 Hours of Light
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