2020 Yukon Quest

Nora Sjalin fixes her belt in Eagle. Lex Treinen/KUAC

Swedish musher Nora Själin knows how to make an entrance. Early Friday morning, Själin came rocketing into the chute, stopping with a stylish skid. A big smile spread across her face.

Själin was the seventh musher and the first rookie in the 37th Yukon Quest to reach the Dawson City checkpoint

“I guess it feels like being the first rookie to Dawson, I don’t know,” said Själin with a laugh when asked what it felt like to be the first newcomer in. “I don’t know. I’m glad to be here. Very, very happy to be here.

“And, I’m happy the other rookies are on the way too. That makes me really happy.”

The 2020 Yukon Quest is veteran-laden. Along with Själin, there are only two other rookies in the race, Pat Noddin and Olivia Shank-Neff.

When it came to conquering American Summit, Själin said her team handled it well.

“It was windy but it was OK,” said Själin. “We were over pretty fast and they did great, they did very good.”

The trail she experienced after descending the summit, matched the description of the six mushers before her.

“The trail was a bit soft, I never felt the wind but the weather was beautiful. It was almost a full moon so you could see a lot of the trail so it was nice.”

While on her journey out of Alaska and toward Canada, Själin said she saw plenty of wildlife.

“I saw some caribou this morning,” Själin said. “It was good. It sped us up. We went fast. I’m happy.”

Upon reaching the first checkpoint on the eastern side of the border, Själin said the Alaskan portion of the race was everything she expected.

“Eagle Summit was a bit steeper and longer than I had expected,” she said. “I was being a bit cocky. I didn’t take the backline so next time, if I do this again I will definitely do that.

“It was a bit of everything. I was expecting more jumble ice that I had been hearing about, but this year seems to be a year without a lot of jumble ice.”

Själin brought 11 dogs from Norway, where she now lives and works, and borrowed three from Brent Sass. Her dog Mathilda led most of the way before needing a break, and she had praise for the whole team.

“I’m happy with all of them. All of them are doing great,” she said. “I couldn’t run that far and look this good. I would look horrible.”

During her extended layover, Själin said she is first going to care for the dogs before she takes care of herself.

“I’m looking forward to giving these guys some well-deserved rest,” Själin said. “I’m also super excited to brush my teeth because I haven’t done that since it started.”

With a smile and a laugh, Själin exited the chute toward the dog yard the same way she entered, full of joy and enthusiasm.