An unwelcome dump of snow on the weekend cancelled one of Yukon's biggest annual sporting events, leaving hundreds of would-be competitors with t-shirts for an event that never happened.

It also left them a little lighter in the wallet — the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay has a no-refund policy.

"It's no different than if you sign up for a marathon in Kansas, and they have to cancel the marathon at the last minute because a tornado rolls through, or a forest fire," said race co-ordinator Mike Kramer.

"There's just certain things that are outside of our control."

About 1,300 riders were set to begin the cross-border relay race on Saturday morning in Haines Junction, Yukon. The one-day race was to finish 240 kilometres away, in Haines, Alaska.

Kluane-Chilkat International bike relay

Racers enjoyed more seasonable weather in 2014. (Elyn Jones/CBC)

But on Saturday morning, Haines Junction was blanketed in fresh snow. Road reports also told of slush, snow and black ice on the road to Haines.

"Those things, for drivers, for volunteers, and then specifically the bike riders on their bikes — a lot of which had skinny tires, and I'm pretty sure nobody had studded tires on their bikes — just make it an unsafe event to continue on with," Kramer said.

"It was an easy decision to make, it was just difficult to make it in terms of, you know, not feeling very happy about making it."

Too big to re-schedule 

Kramer said they considered delaying the race a few hours, or bumping it until Sunday, but those options proved impossible. The event is just too big — with volunteers, permits, and complicated logistics — to be easily re-scheduled.

It's also impossible to refund the $76 registration fee to the competitors, something he says he's being asked about.

Haines Junction

The snow didn't stay long around Haines Junction, but it was impossible for organizers to postpone the event, even by a few hours. (Submitted by Robert Unger)

"Just about every expense payment has already been made, before a wheel even crosses the start line."

That includes the cost of things such as insurance, highway permits, and porta-potties.

Kramer says most competitors happily accepted the decision to cancel the event, and some were even grateful. He says some cyclists' parents have also been in touch to thank him for making a safe decision.

Now it's time to start looking ahead to 2018, he said. This year was supposed to mark the event's 25th anniversary, so Kramer says that raises a key question for organizers.

"Will 2018 be the 25th re-do, or will it be the 26th?"

With files from Dave White