A race worth the trip

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Come join the excitement as crowds cheer on some of the fiercest dog mushing teams in the world at the finish line of the 2011 Yukon Quest sled dog race. The 1,000-mile race at the top of the world pits man and canine against the elements between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska during the depths of the Arctic winter.

Known for excellence in canine care and fostering the traditions of dog sled racing, the Yukon Quest was named to commemorate the Yukon River, and follows the historic Gold Rush and Mail Delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. While the Iditarod is the more well-known dog sled race in Alaska, the Yukon Quest is often referred to as the more challenging race. On the trail of the Yukon Quest, mushers only have ten checkpoints to the Iditarod’s 28 so they spend a lot more time in no-man’s land, out in the cold with their dogs and facing distances of more than 200 miles between checkpoints.

This year, half of the registered mushers are running the 1,000-mile race for the first time, but they have their work cut out for them, as a rookie rarely wins this race; it’s a course that favors the veteran. So keep your eye out for 2009 champion Sebastian Schnuelle and Hans Gatt, the 2010 champion, who crossed the Whitehorse finish line in record time of nine days and 59 minutes.

To be more than just a spectator, sign up to volunteer at: http://www.yukonquest.com/site/signup-to-volunteer.

If you are in Fairbanks early, help support the annual race at the Crab Feed Fundraiser that will take place on Sunday, Jan. 16, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Pioneer Park. Tickets are available in advance at the Yukon Quest Store or by calling 907-452-7954.

Or come to Fairbanks in time for the first ever Yukon Quest “Purse Party” on Saturday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. at the Dog Mushers Hall to help raise money to contribute to the race purse. Drinks will be provided by the Alaskan Brewing Co. Entrance is $20 and includes a limited edition 2011 Yukon Quest/Alaskan Brewing Co. glass. All proceeds will go directly to the purse.

The Yukon Quest race starts on schedule rain or shine from Whitehorse on Feb. 5, and lasts anywhere from 10 to 16 days until the final dog team arrives at the finish line. Teams are expected to arrive at the finish line between Monday, Feb. 14 and Sat Feb. 19 at the finish line located on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. Be sure and stick around for the Finish and Awards Banquet on Friday, Feb. 18 (tickets cost $60 and include dinner, entertainment, and awards ceremony).

Special winter rates are available online for the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge or by calling (800) 426-0500. For further details about the Yukon Quest go to http://www.yukonquest.com/