Fulda Challenge experiences ups and downs in Dawson City
Monday’s Dawson events in the 2013 Fulda Challenge were a few hours behind schedule getting started,
Photo by Dan Davidson
STEEP RUN – A Fulda competitor heads up the trail at Moose Mountain near Dawson City for a challenge that included navigating a kayak back down the slope.
DAWSON CITY – Monday’s Dawson events in the 2013 Fulda Challenge were a few hours behind schedule getting started, but considering that the entire convoy had to break trail from Eagle Plains Lodge to the Dempster Corner in order to get back to Dawson City, that wasn’t unexpected.
“On the way down not one car was coming up,” said event organizer Holger Bergold, “and we were breaking trail.”
He wasn’t complaining. Breaking trail was a good test for the tires, which are the centerpiece of this annual event, now in its 14th season, and the resulting footage will look great in the television coverage of this trip, which will be used to sell tires all over Europe.
“If you want to test winter tires, what better conditions could you ask for?”
The Dempster Highway was under a possible blizzard warning and was closed to regular traffic on Sunday, but Bergold says the road had been plowed as far as the Arctic Circle so that the Fulda Challenge could hold its long distance run event there.
“They drove to the Arctic Circle so we could go in. It was really nice from the highways deptartment.”
The event at the Arctic Circle was a long distance run. Last year it had to be cancelled after they got there due to extreme cold, but this year, with temperatures during the day rising to as much as zero where they were, there was no problem.
No traffic either.
“So they were running and there was no danger of running on the street because there were no trucks. It was great,” said Bergold.
Fulda had arrived in Dawson on Saturday evening, after three days of events, which began in Whitehorse on Thursday and included a buggy drive (Schwatka Lake), climbing (Mount Sima), dog sled racing from Muktuk Kennels (Takhini River), airplane pulling (Fish Lake), a blindfold obstacle race (Braeburn Lodge) and Ice Chopping (Pelly Crossing).
That there was no Canadian team this year was something of a communication accident, according to Bergold. A French team had applied, and Fulda wanted to accommodate them, but had hoped to set it up as a French/French-Canadian duo.
Somehow the two sets of possible athletes never connected, so they went with the French entry.
“Next year we are definitely having a Canadian team again,” he said.
Susanne Knickel, the marketing manager for Goodyear-Dunlop (Fulda’s parent company) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, sipped hot chocolate in the Moose Mountain Ski Lodge and opined that this year was “the best year ever” for the event.
The Yukon experience is just the best thing for them in terms of visuals and advertising impact, she said.
For the last three years, Fulda’s arrival has seen temperatures plunge to anywhere from -35 to -50 C, causing the event planners to make last-minute adjustments, as some things just couldn’t be done safely.
This year the group’s arrival coincided with 48 hours of heavy snowfall that had plows busy in Dawson for days. This year, the town basked in single digit minus temperatures and, when it wasn’t snowing, clear skies through which a returning sun could be seen on the southern horizon.
Up on Moose Mountain there was lots of snow for the planned event. Contestants had to run a marked course about halfway up the ski hill, slip into a lightweight kayak, and navigate a return course down the hill.
Running in soft snow is as hard as it looks, and several contestants were slowed to a trudge when they hit the steeper part of the slope.
After watching several others make the climb, one contestant turned to his mates and said goodbye. Knickel translated that he said he expected to die while making the run.
Coasting back down, the kayaks were hard to control and several contestants either flipped or lost their paddles during the attempt.
Team Austria won the 2013 Fulda Challenge.