North

Yukon sled dog race planned in place of cancelled Yukon Quest

The new race will focus on dog rest and the social side of sled dog racing, an organizer says.

The new race will focus on dog rest and the social side of sled dog racing, organizer says

Organizers say the Yukon Journey sled dog race will provide lots of rest time for the dogs and more time for the mushers to socialize on the trail with each other. (Submitted by Susie Rogan)

With the cancellation of this year's Yukon Quest international sled dog race, some Yukoners are taking the opportunity to stage an alternate race from Dawson City, Yukon to Whitehorse.

But one of the organizers says it will be a much different event.

"I think the big thing is people want the race to be something everybody can feel good about being a part of, like mushers, volunteers, sponsors, race officials, veterinarians," said Susie Rogan, vice-president of the Dog Powered Sports Association of Yukon.

Rogan said the race will have two parts. The first is from Dawson City to the roughly halfway point at Pelly Crossing.

The race will start in Dawson City on Feb. 21 with a mass start, she said. The second-half of the race will start 52 hours later in Pelly Crossing.

That will give the mushers plenty of time to get from Dawson to Pelly Crossing, Rogan said, with lots of rest for the dogs and time to socialize along the way for the mushers.

She said there will be no benefit to the mushers for making it to Pelly Crossing first. And they'll be discouraged from arriving too early.

Local sled dogs pitching in prior to a previous Yukon Quest race to give rides to the public in Whitehorse. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon Quest)

The second half of the race to Whitehorse includes a mandatory 20 hours of rest time for the dogs. The race ends on Feb. 26, Rogan said.

There is a separate event for mushers who just want to do the Dawson to Pelly Crossing leg of the race.

Rogan said the title of the race is Yukon Journey, reflecting the physical journey through the territory's wilderness and the progressive shift to a different style of race. The public is becoming more concerned about animal welfare, as it should be, she said, and sled dog racing has to change with it.

An 'authentic bush race'

Rogan said the cancellation of the Quest gives Yukon mushers the chance to try something different.

"How about having our own race with our own values," she said.

"And, you know, really, it's an authentic bush race for Yukoners, it kind of says who we are, that we want a ton of mandatory rest and we don't want people cheating their dogs and we do want people enjoying themselves."

Mushers must start with at least eight dogs and no more than 12. They must finish with at least six dogs.

Rogan said there will be a purse for the winner, but it won't be big.

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