Yukon Quest elevations

Mushers will still be able to take on a challenging section of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race this winter. 

While the coronavirus pandemic has sidelined the 1,000-mile race and the Yukon side opted not to hold a race in 2021, the race is on in Alaska. The 300-mile stretch of trail on the Alaska side has been officially branded the Summit Quest, according to Peter Kamper, vice president of the Alaska board of directors. 

The trail, which begins in Fairbanks, features two of the highest, steepest peaks of the Quest Trail: Rosebud (3,640 feet) and Eagle Summit (3,685 feet). While Solomon’s Dome outside of Dawson is roughly 300 feet taller, it features much gentler slopes. Rosebud and particularly Eagle Summit have often decided the winners of the 1,000 mile Quest. By renaming the Alaska side, it sets it apart from the 300-mile version run in alternate years on the Canadian side, which has much different conditions and terrain.

The Summit Quest will start on Feb. 13 at 11 a.m. in Fairbanks. As in years past, the trail will run to checkpoints at Two Rivers, Mile 101 on the Steese Highway, Central, Circle and back to Central for the finish line. Mushers must have 22 hours of mandatory rest at checkpoints, including a six-hour rest in Central on their way to Circle, where all dogs will undergo a thorough veterinary examination. Vets also will check dogs at every checkpoint whenever possible. 

Mushers must start the race with no fewer than eight dogs and no more than 12. They must finish with no fewer than six dogs.

If a team has not had 22 hours rest time in checkpoints along the trail, the remaining rest time not taken along the trail will be added to their race time at the finish line before a winner will be declared in Central.

Mushers will be required to provide straw for all checkpoints, with exception of Mile 101, as well as provide or carry all their fuel. Signups will be open from Oct. 3 to Feb. 11 and The Summit Quest will field a maximum of 35 mushers. A minimum of 15 mushers must be signed up by Jan. 14, 2021, for the race to be held. The nonrefundable entry fee is $500, rising to $600 on Nov. 3.

A full set of rules is online at  http://www.angelfire.com/de/kanualaska/2021-YQ300_Summit_Quest_Rules.pdf 

“Granted, the Summit Quest won’t be the easiest trail to mush, but Alaska’s YQ volunteers and checkpoints will do their best to keep the traditions and hospitality of the old mail trail alive,” Kamper said. “Bring your dogs. We’ll break the trail.” 

Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.