The 2021 Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Dog Sled Race is going to have a different look to it come next February. Two separate races will be held in 2021, one in Alaska and one in the Yukon.
"It was a decision made by the Joint Board of Directors," said Shayna Hammer, the executive director on the Yukon side.
The Joint Board of Directors made the decision based on several factors. Looming over the decision to hold separate races is the continued uncertainty about surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Crossing the border plays an integral part to the race," said Hammer. "It's the safe decision if we can't get over.
"There's also the chance of a second outbreak and what kind of restrictions those will bring. It makes an impact on the mushers and on logistics. As well, the race goes through smaller communities."
There is also the issue of volunteers, many of whom fly into the Yukon and Alaska to aid in the logistics of the race.
Bev Regier, the president of the Yukon board of directors, said in a release COVID-19 has affected many other organizations – including Yukon Quest sponsors.
“We’re not the only organization to feel the impacts of COVID-19,” said Regier. “Not only has this provided uncertainty regarding necessary logistics for the 1,000-mile race, but we also acknowledge that a number of sponsors have also been impacted and may not be able to support the race in 2021 the same way they have been able to do in past years.”
Hammer said the Yukon Quest has reached out to mushers to gauge who would be available for the races.
"We put out a survey to the mushing community to see what their thoughts were," said Hammer. "We got a good response from the survey so we do want to give them a season."
The release said the Alaska office is working to overcome its current financial situation. This has had a great impact on whether moving forward with the 1,000-mile race is realistic next year.
“We’re working hard to find solutions for our financial situation,” said Dave Dalton, president, Alaska Board of Directors and recently retired musher.
“We’ve weighed what we can feasibly commit to for the 2021 race season and have determined that it makes the most sense to scale back this year and focus our efforts and resources on a shorter race in Alaska.”
Hammer said the Yukon and Alaska sides have been holding more joint board meetings because there is "lots to sort out."
Currently, both sides are in the beginning stages of the respective 2021 races. Hammer said the race distance, trail details and additional logistics are still being worked out.
The opening day of registration, usually held in early August, has been postponed until September, the official day is to be decided.