Yukon Quest officials ‘guardedly optimistic’ about 2021 race

Published: Nov. 6, 2020 at 8:04 PM AKST
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With record snowfall touching down in Fairbanks Friday, dog mushers from around the area are one-step closer from being able to hitch their world class athletes to a sled for training.

“It is great, because it has been cold throughout the state for several weeks now, so a lot of the swamps and a lot of the trails had a good time to freeze up before the first snows," said Yukon Quest Musher Director, Race Marshal and Secretary Doug Grilliot. “If you have a lot of snow and it is has been warm, then you’ll have some soft areas, some marshy areas. Now, everybody can plan to get off their cart training, their four-wheeler training, which is very important and very significant, but it is not nearly as much fun as being on a sled.”

As the 26 mushers that signed up for the ‘Summit Quest 300’, prepare for the race, the YQ Board is going to great lengths to ensure it will take place on February 13, 2021 as planned. In recent months, the Alaska Office of the Yukon Quest has laid off their employees for the time being. According to Grilliot, volunteers are still responding to phone calls and filling in the gaps where needed. Like many small businesses, the Yukon Quest received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

“Those funds have just been depleted and our fundraising, while it has been good, it just hasn’t been good enough to maintain the staff and keep the office open,” said Grilliot.

While funds are scarce, Grilliot said the Yukon Quest is still prepared to host the 300-mile race that begins in Fairbanks in February.

“We decided months ago to earmark a certain amount, enough to pay for the race. We did make that an untouchable account, if you would like to call it that, so we are not going to spend it for anything else, because that is our priority right now.”

The Summit Quest 300 will be the only Yukon Quest race offered this year, as the Canadian-side elected not to host an event for the upcoming season.

“Hopefully it is important to the mushing community,” said Grilliot of offering a race to mushers. "We have gotten a lot of really good feedback and thank you’s for attempting to make it happen. I think it is really important to have some form of the Yukon Quest run up here this year and hopefully in 2022, we will have the full 1,000-mile race.

“It is not here yet...but we are guardedly optimistic that we are going to be able to do this.”

The Yukon Quest 300, or the Summit Quest 300 as it is being referred to this year, is scheduled to begin February 13, 2021 in Fairbanks at a location yet to be determined. The course will follow the same path as the Yukon 300; starting in Fairbanks, heading to Circle and then backtracking to Central.

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