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SCENIC TRAVELLING – Brent Sass of Eureka, Alaska, enters Carmacks in third place Feb. 8, 2015. Sass went on to win his first Yukon Quest, besting two-time defending champion Allen Moore, of Two Rivers, Alaska.

Quest’s Alaska board paints different picture

The mood was decidedly upbeat Wednesday night at the Yukon Quest Alaska annual meeting in Fairbanks,

By freelancer on May 29, 2015

FAIRBANKS—The mood was decidedly upbeat Wednesday night at the Yukon Quest Alaska annual meeting in Fairbanks, where leaders said the organization is in a better financial position than it’s seen in years.

The Alaska organization for the 1,000-mile Fairbanks-to-Whitehorse sled dog race showed a nearly $38,000 surplus at the end of March, which board president Bill McDonald said hasn’t been seen in six years. Although prize money hasn’t been set yet, he expects it will remain the same or increase from its 2015 levels.

“I can tell you we are more stable than we’ve ever been,” McDonald said.

The report highlighted a quirk of the Quest organizational structure, which includes non-profit boards in both Alaska and Canada, each of which keeps its own books. The Yukon board held its meeting last week, featuring a bleak focus that included discussion of a $50,000 debt and the possibility of a reduced purse.

Yukon board president Michael Peterson said those issues were part of a lively conversation in which the audience and board members were “thinking out loud” about the state of the organization.

When the Yukon board approves its annual budget — a move that will most likely happen today — he said the bigger picture will be more positive. He expects the debt, which he characterized as a result of expenses from the February race, will be erased in the months ahead.

“We’re looking at a balanced budget this year, which we haven’t had for a long time, so we’re feeling very confident,” Peterson said during a telephone interview from his British Columbia home.

The Quest has struggled to break even since the global recession took a bite out of its sponsorships and finances in 2009. Officials talked openly about halting the race four years ago and later reduced the 2013 purse to $100,000, half the level it was at in 2007.

But Alaska race officials said on Wednesday the news is improving.

Alaska executive director Marti Steury said the public focus on the Quest has surged, including a two-fold increase in social media traffic during this year’s race. She said efforts to land a signature sponsor for the race have been encouraging.

This year’s minimum purse was $115,000, a total that grew by about $15,000 when fundraisers and unclaimed winnings from the 2014 race were included.

McDonald and Peterson said they anticipate the minimum prize money will remain steady or increase.

“The intention is to not have less than what the previous purse was,” McDonald said.

The Alaska and Yukon boards will hold a joint meeting in July to discuss their combined financial status and set a purse for the 2016 Quest. Sign-up for the race begins Aug. 2.

Four-time Quest champion Lance Mackey, the new musher representative on the Alaska board, said at Wednesday’s meeting that he’s already heard from mushers worried about a dip in prize money.

He said it’s crucial that the purse keeps pace with the high cost of competitive mushing.

“I can honestly say as good as I’ve done in this sport, with the dog sales and everything, I’m as broke as ever,” Mackey said. “That’s not acceptable.”

The boards in both the Yukon and Alaska also seem to be leaning toward a return to a traditional race schedule, including a 36-hour rest at the halfway point in Dawson City. The rules committee cut the break to 24 hours for this year’s race as part of a larger effort to add more shorter rests to the schedule.

After that experiment, it appears both mushers and race officials are ready to revive a more leisurely stay in Dawson.

“I think everyone was keen to see how it would work,” Peterson said. “The general sentiment was we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t tried it.”

New members of the Alaska board were also elected at the annual meeting. McDonald returns for another term, and will be joined by new members John Dixon and Della Severtson.

By JEFF RICHARDSON
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Comments (1)

Up 1 Down 0

Ev Voykin on May 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm

From where I sit, it seems the Alaskan side of the Yukon Quest was in the red for a number of years, while the Canadian side carried them. Seeing a $36,000 surplus on the AK side which translates into almost $45,000 Canadian, I feel its only prudent, the AK side of YQ "Pay it Back, by Paying it Forward" when they get together to set the purse later. I am still perplexed as to the 2 separate accounting methods. I can partly understand that, but I hope in the end there is one combined, after all this is One race, not two.

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