In February 1983, historian Roger Williams and musher Leroy Shank sketched out their idea of a rugged, 1000-mile race over some beer and banter at the Bull’s Eye Saloon, south of Fairbanks, Alaska.
They envisioned a race independent of the demands of big media - with rules so tough that only mushing “purists” would participate.
They would name it “Yukon Quest” - after the ‘old highway of the North,’ the Yukon River as the route would follow travel routes along the river and its tributaries from Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Yukon and Lord Tennyson’s description of the Quest as an expedition of knights in ‘The Holy Grail’.
It would be a true test of human and canine endurance and commemorate the historic dependence for mutual survival of arctic humans and their sled dogs.
Williams and Shank went on to raise $50,000 in prize money and stirred up an incredible 400 volunteers and in February 1984, 27 teams burst out of the start chute in Fairbanks in the first Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race thanks the countless mushers, handlers, volunteers, sponsors and individuals who have made this historic race possible.
In 2013, the winner will receive $18,930, which is 18.93% of a total $100,000 purse.
The main differences between the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod are the following:
This was the vision of the Yukon Quest founders, Roger Williams and Leroy Shank, who wanted the race to respect the true history of arctic mushing, which knew no borders and which followed the “old highways of the North,” the Yukon River and its tributaries, which is almost perfectly divided between Alaska and the Yukon. Alternating the location of the Race Start gives mushers the experience of ‘coming and going’ to their destination and offers greater variety as each direction presents different challenges.
Dawson City was the home of the Klondike Gold Rush and is still famous for its unique Northern hospitality today and unique 1898-era buildings. The Yukon Quest stops here for a good rest, just like the trappers, mail carriers and mushers did over a century ago. The halfway point in the race is a good time for the mushers to rest. Although the dogs work on an approximately even run-rest schedule, the mushers do not, and replenishing their energy during their mandatory Dawson City layover allows them to be as fresh as possible for the second half of the race. All Yukon Quest sled dogs receive at least one, and often more, complete physical examinations by the Yukon Quest Veterinary Team during their rest in Dawson City to be sure that they are ready to compete in the remainder of the race. The 36-hour mandatory layover also gives the dog handlers a chance to work with and exercise their team’s dogs—this is their only opportunity to do so during the entire race.
“Mushing” is a general term for any transport method powered by dogs and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go. It is the command to the team to commence pulling—Mush! Although this term is seldom used in the modern day, it still gives name to the sport.
The winner and frontrunners in the Yukon Quest take approximately 10 days. The record for the fastest time, set by Hans Gatt in 2010, is 9 days, 0 hours and 26 minutes. Red Lantern winners and others at the back of the pack can take up to 16 days or more, depending on trail and weather conditions. The Yukon Quest Trail is always called “historic” – what is historic about it? The Yukon Quest Trail links together a series of shorter travel routes that were the only means of winter travel over a century ago. When Yukon Quest founders began looking for a route to follow between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, they resurrected many historic routes and combined them to cover 1,000 miles.