Citing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yukon Quest’s organizers announced Wednesday that next year’s race will be split in two: one race in Alaska, the other in Yukon.
The trail of the renowned sled-dog race normally stretches about 1,600 kilometres, between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse.
Even if the border is reopened, Hammer said, the organization would have to consider the impact of travel, including by volunteers and race personnel, to communities in the territory.
“We need to look at what’s going to be best, what’s safe for everyone, and then what’s feasible for the organization, as well,” she said.
Pixie Ingram, a spokesperson for the race, said that she wasn’t aware of a split like this in the event’s decades-long history.
The event’s joint board of directors made the call, according to a news release.
“The Alaska office is working to overcome their current financial situation,” the document reads.
The potential for major restrictions, should COVID-19 become a bigger problem in territory, and the organization required, including by racers, several of whom live outside of North America, are some of the reasons for deciding to split the race more than half a year in advance, Hammer said.
She said the organization also wanted sponsors to have some early understanding of what the races will entail.
Lower entry fees
Hammer said the organization has been considering the financial situations of sponsors and mushers amid the pandemic.
Many mushers’ incomes are dependent on sled-dog trips and other tourism offerings, which have been negatively impacted over the past few months, she said.
“I think it’s safe to say: shorter race, lower entry fees, for sure,” Hammer said.
This year, 15 mushers participated in the race, half as many as the year prior.
Mushers will be able to sign up for the next race starting in September, as opposed to August like the last time.
With files from the CBC’s Dave White