There will be no Yukon Quest international sled dog race in Yukon this winter, organizers announced on Wednesday.
In a news release, the Yukon Quest International Association (Canada) said there were several factors behind the decision, including border restrictions, sponsorships, and the risk of COVID-19 exposure to communities along the route.
Organizers said the decision was not made lightly.
“We have a responsibility to look at all aspects of the organization and an event greater responsibility to keep our community’s health a priority,” said Bev Regier, president of the YQIA (Canada) board, in a statement.
This would have been the 38th year for the grueling 1,600-kilometre race between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse. The direction of the race alternates each year, and this winter it would have started in Whitehorse on Feb. 6.
But race organizers had already decided in June that this year’s race would have to be different because of border restrictions, and so they announced that it would be split into two races, one in Yukon and one in Alaska.
The decision to cancel the race altogether in Yukon happened this past weekend at a meeting of the YQIA board.
The news release says it would have been difficult to organize such a big even during a pandemic. It says the decision to cancel was made out of concern for the health of mushers, race volunteers and supporters, and people living in communities along the race route.
It also cited “economic challenges to local sponsors.”
Three weeks ago, Yukon Quest organizers in Alaska announced that they were going ahead with the shorter, 482-kilometre YQ300 race. It’s scheduled to start on Feb. 13 in Fairbanks.