Summit Quest 300, the 2021 version of the Yukon Quest, starts Saturday in Pleasant Valley

The Summit Quest 300 is set to take off from the Pleasant Valley Store on Saturday.
The Summit Quest 300 is set to take off from the Pleasant Valley Store on Saturday.(Yukon Quest/KTVF)
Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 7:34 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A lot has happened since Eureka musher Brent Sass crossed the Whitehorse, Yukon finish line to win consecutive 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog races in February of 2020. Through the mandates, loss of tourism and just the pandemic in general, one thing that did not waver was the Quest’s intentions to host some form of race in 2021.

While it took changes of the race’s distance, staff members and name, the Alaskan YQ Board of Directors was able to formulate the ‘Summit Quest 300′, a shortened version of the race that resembles closely to the Yukon Quest 300.

Due to the Canadian border closure, the Quest’s original plan was to host two separate races; one in Yukon and one in Alaska. That fell through when the Yukon Board of Directors elected to cancel their race all together in hopes for a strong return in 2022. The gears for an Alaskan race continued to move in motion and will culminate on Saturday at the Pleasant Valley Store just outside of Two Rivers.

“For a rebuilding year, this is a perfect little race,” said Doug Grilliot, the Musher’s Representative and Secretary for the Alaska Board of Directors, “It keeps the Yukon Quest out there, it keeps our name out there for our fans. The weather looks good, it doesn’t look like we don’t have any big storms or anything and I don’t think it is going to be too bitterly cold.”

A total of 18 mushers are signed up for the Summit Quest 300, which leaves the Pleasant Valley Store at 11 a.m. Saturday to begin a 40-mile loop that rebounds back to the Pleasant Valley Community Center for the first check point. From there, the trail will follow the traditional YQ300 course, heading to Mile 101, over the mighty Eagle Summit (elevation of 3,865 feet), into Central, through Circle and back to Central for the finish.

By default, most of the mushing teams are rookies from Alaska.

“I think it is a nice turnout for this year, a lot of local people, a lot of new names in the race this year, so that is kind of exciting,” said Grilliot. “People are trying to get qualified for the big Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, so I think for what we are doing this year, I am really happy with [the amount of mushers].

2021 Summit Quest 300 Field

Tabitha HughesVeteranFairbanks, AK
Phillip HankeRookieFairbanks, AK
Hugh NeffVeteranFairbanks, AK
Eddie Burke Jr.,RookieNenana, AK
Leigh Strehlow PagelRookieFairbanks, AK
Deke NaaktgeborenVeteranFairbanks, AK
Kai LeddyRookieTalkeetna, AK
Benjamin GoodVeteranNorth Pole, AK
Jodie BaileyVeteranChatanika, AK
Dan KaduceVeteranChatanika, AK
Lauro EklundRookieTwo Rivers, AK
Marla BrodskyRookieWest Chesterfield, MA
Adam LindenmuthRookieWillow, AK
Misha WiljesVeteranWillow, AK
Dan PowellRookieFairbanks, AK
Bridgett WatkinsRookieFairbanks, AK
Vickie JusticeRookieFairbanks, AK
Dereck StarrRookieHuslia, AK

In addition to the many changes to this year’s race, the rules committee has added more rest for the sled dogs this year. In previous 300-mile races hosted by the Yukon Quest, the mandatory accumulated rest was six hours, but has increased to 22 hours this year.

“It is always all about the dogs, we are just trying to keep them healthier and happier and see if this provides any real tangible benefits,” said Grilliot, who mentioned a mandatory six-hour rest at the Central checkpoint. “I mean the mushers are going to take care of their dogs, so this just kind of makes it a little more formal.”

It may not be the Yukon Quest of year’s past, but the Summit Quest 300 looks to carry on the historic legacy of the international sled dog race. Continue to monitor for storylines and updates along the Summit Quest 300 trail.

Copyright 2021 KTVF. All rights reserved.