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Pandemic takes Yukon out of the 2021 Yukon Quest sled dog race

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: September 5, 2020
  • Published September 4, 2020

Cody Strathe of Cantwell high-fives a spectator as he leaves the starting line of the 2020 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in Fairbanks. (Marc Lester / ADN archives)

First it was going to be a Quest divided. Now it’s a Quest with no Yukon.

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, a 1,000-mile race held on historic routes linking the Klondike and Interior Alaska gold fields, won’t put dogs on the Canada side of the trail in 2021.

Canada’s board of directors voted last week to cancel the Yukon portion of the race due to COVID-19-related concerns: international travel restrictions, economic strains for sponsors and the risk of spreading the virus to Yukon towns on the trail.

The Alaska portion of the race still plans to go forward as a 300-mile mid-distance race. According to a recent post on the Quest’s Facebook page, it’s being called the Summit Quest and it will follow the same route as the Yukon 300 from Fairbanks to Circle City. Signups begin Oct. 3 at the Howling Dog Saloon in Fox.

(Alaska) Along with the decline in tourism due to Covid 19 and several years of low participation, the Yukon Quest has...

Posted by Yukon Quest on Friday, August 28, 2020

Held annually since 1984, the Yukon Quest is governed by separate boards in Canada and Alaska. In June, the boards decided jointly to hold two races in 2021, one in Yukon and one in Alaska.

Last Saturday, the Canada board decided not to hold a race at all.

“We did not make this decision lightly,” Bev Regier, president of Canada’s board of directors, said in a written statement. “We have a responsibility to look at all aspects of the organization and an even greater responsibility to keep our community’s health a priority.”

Even before the pandemic took hold last March, the Quest was struggling with dwindling popularity — a record-low field of 15 mushers started the 2020 race — and the Alaska part of race was facing significant financial challenges.

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