Yukon Arctic Ultra cancelled for 2021, organizer considering alternative races

The “toughest ultra race in the world” isn’t tough enough to withstand the impacts of travel restrictions in place because of COVID-19 pandemic: the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021 has been cancelled.

Alternative races could happen in Yukon and Sweden

Competitors began their journey in Whitehorse in the 2019 race. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The "toughest ultra race in the world" wasn't tough enough to withstand the effects of COVID-19 travel restrictions: the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021 has been cancelled.

The winter race, which includes a marathon as well as routes between 160 and 692 kilometres in length, was tentatively scheduled to go ahead in February.

Director Robert Pollhammer said Tuesday it would not go ahead next year, but he's considering alternative races.

"I'm trying to deal with the frustration by finding other ways to give people an adventure," he told CBC News.

Last winter, 63 people registered to travel either a marathon distance, 100 miles (about 161 kilometres), 300 miles (483 kilometres), or 430 miles (692 kilometres) through the remote Yukon backcountry. Most competitors ran or walked the trail, but some competed on skis or bikes.

This year many visitors have to self-isolate for two weeks upon entering Yukon unless they are part of the territory's travel bubble, which includes British Columbia and the other two territories.

There are also restrictions on international travel to Canada, which would be a significant challenge for a race that draws several people from outside the country.

Pollhammer, who lives in Germany, said he's not sure if he would even be allowed into Canada for the race.

Yukon Arctic Ultra organizer Robert Pollhammer at the Braeburn race checkpoint in 2018. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"For me, the Yukon is like my second home, and a lot of the people involved in the race, they're friends or, you know, almost part of my family now," he said. "That would be sad if I couldn't see them."

Between about 80 and 90 people were expected to participate in the 2021 race, which would have been the maximum allowed, Pollhammer said.

"If organizing this race or doing a race like this teaches you one thing, then it's that you have to face a challenge head on, you have to learn and adapt and try to look for alternatives," he said.

Usually the Arctic Ultra is non-stop, but an alternative race in Yukon could involve multiple stages, he said.

He said another potential race is being considered in Sweden.

It would be similar to the standard Arctic Ultra, he said, but "a little bit less extreme, maybe."


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