Yukon Quest Alaska to hold 300-mile sled dog race as rift with Canada continues

A musher shields her eyes from the back of the sled
Jennifer LaBar heads off on the 300-mile 2023 Yukon Quest. (Lex Treinen/KUAC)

The Yukon Quest Alaska has revised its 2024 race plan. The organization has decided not to run a 550-mile race like it did last February and is instead falling back to a 300-miler for its premier event.

Quest Executive Director Lisa Nilson said a Fairbanks to Circle and Central race trail has been modified in response to musher feedback to include 25 miles on the Yukon River, instead of returning to Central via Birch Creek.

“The rough area around Birch Creek gets pretty cold so we eliminated that and we wanted to make sure and get back on the Yukon River so the 300-miler basically starts in Fairbanks, heads over to Circle and then the part after that is new trail,” Nilson said. “So it goes back to Central to have the finish there and the new trail is what touches on the Yukon River instead of Birch Creek.”

The Quest will also host 200- and 80-mile races, both also starting in Fairbanks.

“The 200-mile qualifier finishes in Central and the 80 is to Two Rivers and back just like last year,” she said.

The traditional 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse has not been held since 2020. It was initially canceled due to pandemic restrictions and then last year due to a dispute between Canadian and Alaska side race organizers over dog rest requirements.

Nilson said the Quest has not given up on running longer races.

“Our goal is to hopefully make up with Canada someday and communicate with them and coordinate with them, but right now our main focus is definitely —  especially with the 2024 race coming up — is just to make sure that we’re putting together an amazing race, we’re building up the sport, we’re encouraging young mushers to sign up,” said Nilson.

Nilson, who was hired last month, said she’s focused on building sponsor and community support so longer races can be held in upcoming years. Quest organizers have announced a minimum 2024 300-mile race purse of $30,000, but Nilson said she’s working to increase the amount prior to the Feb. 3 start date.

Sign-ups for the 2024 Yukon Quest races open on Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Yukon Quest Alaska race headquarters in downtown Fairbanks.

RELATED: Yukon Quest sled dog race faces an uncertain future

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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