At the top of the world in the Yukon and Alaska wilderness of northwestern North America, an epic winter sports event takes place every February: the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race. Covering 1,000 miles (1,600 km) between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska during the depths of winter, the Yukon Quest is known for excellence in canine care and fostering the traditions of northern travel by dog sled. The race alternates it's starting points every year. Every even-numbered year, the start is in Fairbanks and every odd-numbered year the event starts in Whitehorse.
This incredible winter event takes place the first weekend every February when weather conditions can be the coldest and most unpredictable. The Yukon Quest race starts on schedule regardless of weather and lasts from 10 to 16 days until the final dog team arrives at the finish line. The Yukon Quest has been run every year since 1984 over rough, sometimes hazardous terrain.
The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now comes alive each February with the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs. Up to 50 dog teams consisting of one human 'musher' and 14 canine athletes tread across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America.
The Yukon Quest is a true test of the capacity of humans and canines, and a tribute to the strength of the ancient bond that unites them. Thus, the Yukon Quest is dedicated to excellence in canine care. Quest sled dogs are elite, marathon athletes. Bred from stock that survived and thrived during the Klondike Gold Rush, no animal on earth can match them for endurance, dedication and ability to perform in the extreme conditions of the North.
All Yukon Quest dogs are checked by the race veterinarians and supported by the Yukon Quest Veterinary Program at checkpoints and dog drops throughout the race. Race veterinarians ensure every dog is fit to continue. Mushers are coaches, cooks, cheerleaders, and companions to their dogs.
The purse is shared between the first 15 finishing teams. Dog team drivers (mushers) must be at least 18-years-old by the race start and have demonstrated their ability by successfully completing a 200-mile and a 300-mile sled dog race.
The spirit of the Yukon Quest is still true to its northern soul. Mushers carry mandatory equipment, food and supplies at all times. Sleds cannot be replaced without penalty, and mushers are not permitted to accept any assistance, except at the half-way point in Dawson City. The Yukon Quest Trail crosses frozen rivers and four mountain summits. Temperatures of -40, 100 mph winds, open water and bad ice are all barriers. There are nine checkpoints; some separated by more than 200 miles.
Race updates provide information on team positions, progress and times as mushers check in and out of checkpoints. "Dog drop" locations are also strategically positioned along the route, offering additional locations where race veterinarians are available