Is mushing dying out in the land of the Klondike Gold Rush?

Musher Brian Wilmshurst, of Dawson City, Yukon, prepares to leave the start chute of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race on Saturday Feb. 2, 2013, in Whitehorse, Yukon. Twenty-six mushers started this year's event, traveling from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks, Alaska. Vince Fedoroff

No Yukoner has won the Yukon Quest since the now-retired Hans Gatt of Whitehorse took the title in 2010, and there appears to be nobody in the wings to replace him. Sebastian Schnuelle, another Quest winner, has joined Gatt in retirement. This year, only five Yukoners even entered the epic race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, and the fastest among them could only manage seventh place. In 2011, the top Yukon finisher placed 15th. All this led Up Here magazine to ask the Yukon's mushing community whether dogsledding is dying out "in the territory where it was born."

Off the Quest trail, an influx of modern adventure sports keeps a new generation of young, active Yukoners busy. These days, kite-skiers and backcountry snowboarders dot the Yukon’s winter landscape much more frequently than dog teams.

Should Yukoners be worried? Does a decline in Yukoners’ fortunes in the Quest – the top of the mushing pyramid – spell trouble for the sport itself? After all, if there’s one contest the North can claim as its own, it’s dog sledding. But in a changing Yukon, is there still room for such an old-school pursuit? Where does mushing go from here?

But Schnuelle, for one, is not too worried. Find out how he and others assess the state of Yukon mushing at Up Here: End of the Trail?



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