'Great to be back on the Quest trail,' says veteran Yukon musher

“The Quest organization did a wonderful job working within the restrictions, being able to put the right race on,” said Michelle Phillips, who came second in the YQ300 race.

Michelle Phillips, who came in 2nd, will race the 1569-kilometre Iditarod in Alaska early next month

Michelle Phillips arrives at the finish line in Whitehorse of the 482-kilometre Yukon Quest 300 at 2:16 a.m. on Feb. 22. Phillips came in second. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

"It was great to be back on the [Yukon] Quest trail," said veteran Yukon musher Michelle Phillips after running her sled dog team in this year's 482-kilometre YQ300 race.

The world-famous Yukon Quest, traditionally a 1,600-kilometre sled dog race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. This year, organizers held four shorter races — two in Alaska and two in Yukon.

"The Quest organization did a wonderful job working within the restrictions, being able to put the right race on," said Phillips.

"Great hospitality. The Braeburn course is always fantastic. And then Mandanna Lake [where they] put up wall tents with a heated wood stove in them and [had] chili, cinnamon buns and coffee. It was just a really, really great stop."

The YQ300 race started at the Shipyards in Whitehorse on Feb. 19. Phillips finished the race at 2:16 a.m. on Feb. 22, coming in second, about half an hour after first-place finisher Brent Sass.

Preparing for the Iditarod

Braeburn said the YQ300 was part of her preparation for the Iditarod, a 1,569-kilometre sled dog race that will take place in Alaska beginning March 5.

"I brought some unknown dogs in on my team because I wanted to see how they would react and make some decisions about which dog I'll take on the Iditarod," she said.

She said it was "super windy on the river" during the last leg of the race.

"The trail was completely blown in," she said, adding it was good training for her team to find the trail, work together and look for markers.

She said her favourite part of the race was seeing the northern lights.

"Mushing under the northern lights was really beautiful," she said. "And just seeing a lot of great friends I know through the quest and having a great run with my dogs."

With files from George Maratos