Two-month old Yoann was sleeping soundly at the Pelly checkpoint when his father Crispin Studer took a wrong turn on the Quest 300 trail.
It was just after 10 p.m. on Monday night, and Studer was in the lead.
He was expected back in Pelly to win the race around midnight, but he didn’t arrive until after 3 a.m.
“I figured I’d missed the intersection because the trail was going north and we had to go east to get back,” said Studer, sitting on a couch at the Pelly checkpoint on Tuesday morning.
In the dark, Studer ran his team up and down the trail five times, trying to figure out where to go.
“Dogs soon lose confidence in you if they realize you’re not in charge,” he said.
“And I was impressed how well they did.”
After what seemed like hours, Studer left his team and walked along the trail looking for the turn.
When he got back, his lead dogs had turned the team around.
“I decided to let them lead, since they probably knew more than me,” he said.
The dogs got him back on the right trail.
“She probably knew all along (where to go),” said Studer. “And figured the guy behind didn’t know what he was doing.”
Thanks to his leader, Studer still won the race, coming into Pelly more than five hours ahead of runner-up Ed Hopkins. Shallow Bay musher Gerry Willomitzer came in third.
“It gives me confidence in my dogs,” said Studer.
The Swiss musher came to the Yukon in 2001 and worked as a handler for Frank Turner.
The next few years he handled for a musher who let him run a team in the Yukon Quest in 2004.
Studer was hooked, but wanted his own team.
“It’s a big difference when you have your own dogs, and make your own decisions – and if you screw up, it’s your dogs,” he said.
“It’s way more fun, but it’s also way more expensive.”
Studer’s team, bred mostly from William Kleedehn’s line, is still young.
“The dogs did better than I expected,” he said.
The hardest part was getting up at Carmacks at two in the morning.
“And I have to go out to the dogs and pretend I’m all excited,” he said.
“But when I saw how good they were, they cheered me up.
“I cheered them up, and then they cheered me up.”
With a new baby born in December, Studer’s training slowed down a little.
“But there was a cold spell then anyway,” he said.
And his wife Melanie Bedard supported him.
“She told me, ‘The dogs are here to run, not sit around,’” said Studer.
“And if you have a baby it’s essential to have that support.”
Studer would like to run the Yukon Quest again with his own team, but he also wants to do some other 300-mile races and possibly the Iditarod.
Studer used to do long-distance bicycle races in Europe.
“And I wouldn’t have said it this morning when I had to get up, but mushing is not as exhausting as bicycle racing,” he said with a laugh.
Contact Genesee Keevil at