OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Yukon Quest
The Yukon Quest 1,000-mile International Sled Dog Race, or simply Yukon Quest, is a sled dog race run every February between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Yukon. Because of the harsh winter conditions, difficult trail, and the limited support that competitors are allowed, it is considered the “most difficult sled dog race in the world”, or even the “toughest race in the world”.
In the competition, first run in 1984, a dog team leader (called a musher) and a team of 6 to 14 dogs race for 10 to 20 days. The course follows the route of the historic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, mail delivery, and transportation routes between Fairbanks, Dawson City, and Whitehorse. Mushers pack up to 250 pounds (113 kg) of equipment and provisions for themselves and their dogs to survive between checkpoints. They are permitted to leave dogs at checkpoints and dog drops, but not to replace them. Sleds may not be replaced (without penalty) and mushers cannot accept help from non-racers except at Dawson City, the halfway mark. Ten checkpoints and four dog drops, some more than 200 miles (322 km) apart, lie along the trail. Veterinarians are present at each to ensure the health and welfare of the dogs, give advice, and provide veterinary care for dropped dogs; together with the race marshal or a race judge, they may remove a dog or team from the race for medical or other reasons.
The route runs on frozen rivers, over four mountain ranges, and through isolated northern villages. Racers cover 1,016 miles (1,635 km) or more. Temperatures commonly drop as low as −60 °F (−51 °C), and winds can reach 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) at higher elevations. Sonny Lindner won the inaugural race in 1984 from a field of 26 teams. The fastest run took place in 2010, when Hans Gatt finished after 9 days and 26 minutes. The 2012 competition had the closest one-two finish, as Hugh Neff beat Allen Moore by twenty-six seconds.