Yukon Quest Alaska releases race details for 2023, a 550-mile trek from Fairbanks to Tok

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 4:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Yukon Quest is as resilient as the men, women and dogs that compete in the grueling race. Whether the obstacle be financial due to sponsorships and revenue, pandemic-related border restrictions, or now an organizational disagreement, there has always been some form of race staged to keep the name and legacy alive.

“There’s a lot of people and a lot of people all over the world that are big fans of the Quest,” said Mark Weber, who was recently named President of the Yukon Quest Alaska Board. “That is what we are going to try to do, is keep the traditions of the Quest, whatever that may mean in the future as we adjust, but just having a competitive dog race that we continue to honor the founders of the Quest.”

Since 1984, some of the sport’s toughest competitors took on the 1,000-mile international trail between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon that features two different summits with elevations over 3,000 feet in Eagle and Rosebud.

The Quest organizers are aiming to maintain some of the long-held traditions of the race alive in announcing race details for the 2023 season which stray from how the race was previously held. The Yukon Quest Alaska’s main race will be a 550-mile course beginning in Fairbanks Feb. 4 and following the traditional trail to Eagle, before moving along the Taylor Highway through Chicken and to the finish line in Tok.

“I think we have a lot of support. I think the 550 race is the perfect stepping stool, it is a great training race, a great distance,” Weber said. “The only thing — issues I see in the 550 is from a competitive standpoint — it might move too fast to be a preliminary, or a double run, with the Iditarod, but it would be a great training run for anyone.”

In addition, the Alaska Board is offering the tradition YQ 300, an Iditarod qualifier, and an 80-mile ‘fun run’ that will be open to junior mushers as well. Weber added that they plan to increase both the distance of the race next year to 1,000 miles, and the prize purse, which is currently $100,000.

The history of the race is solid, but the future is questionable. In May, the Alaska and Canada boards that had previously worked together to stage the race split. This in large part because the Alaska Board claims the Canada proposed a rule change that would have upped the current mandatory rest from 52 hours to 120 hours. The Yukon Quest International Association in Canada reacted as ‘disappointed’ to the split and disagreed with the assessment that the two organizations were “unable to agree on significant proposed rules changes applicable to the race beginning in 2023.”

Following the division, the Alaska Board moved forward with hosting races on their side of the border, planning to stage a 1,000 mile race entirely in Alaska. The door for rekindling is not closed, but things have to move and move quickly in the world of mushing.

“We certainly are open in the future to a thought process of that, but right now, based on what we were presented, we had to make our decisions for the Yukon Quest itself and for Alaska and to get a plan going for the 2023 season,” Weber said. “You just can’t wait until September to make a decision, has to go now, mushers have to plan, we have to get stuff out to the checkpoints before winter, so it’s really difficult to put it off. The decision had to be made, we were in an emergency trying to get it done for the board the other night just so we could make this announcement.”

The Yukon Quest International Association in Canada is also moving forward with races on their side of the border in 2023. A 450-mile, 250-mile and a 100-mile race will begin in Whitehorse on February 18, running the traditional Quest trail through Braeburn, Carmacks, Pelly Crossing and Dawson City.

The first day of sign-ups for the Yukon Quest Alaska races will be Aug. 6 at the Yukon Quest International Ltd. in downtown Fairbanks.

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