As the leading Yukon Quest mushers were nearing the finish of their 16,000-km odyssey, closer to home smaller Yukoners got to test their mettle behind their own animals for a shorter distance.
The youngest participants at this year’s Babe Southwick Memorial Sled Dog Races — children as young as two years old — had one or two dogs pulling their sleds along a 100-m course as part of the kids’ races.
“At the finish line there’s volunteers catching the sleds at the other end,” said Mandy Johnson, vice president of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association which organized the event.
Along with the kids’ competition, the event from Feb. 9 to 10 included races with 10-dog or six-dog teams as well as a skijoring race.
Over the two days, more than 35 people participated in the different races in an attempt to earn part of the $20,000 purse.
Johnson won the six-dog competition.
First place in two-dog skijoring went to Virginia Sarrazin.
In the 10-dog race, first place went to Blayne Steeper.
The area hadn’t been getting a lot of snow all winter but it arrived it time for race day.
“The conditions were great. We got little bit of snow leading up to the race day so we were able to get a really nice race trail put in,” Johnson said.
Temperatures dropped to approximately -15 C on the first day and -22 C on the second, she said.
“It wasn’t too cold for the dogs nor the mushers. Usually when it’s a little bit cooler the dogs tend to run even better.”
The six-dog race is on an approximately 13-km course, as were the skijorers. The 10-dog teams run a 24-km course
The races attract mushers from around Canada and Alaska.
“Sprint racing has always been part of our history. It’s a fun event to watch because it’s something a spectator can watch for 20 minutes or half an hour and they can see the start and finish of the race,” Johnson said.
The memorial races have been running since 1965. They were originally part of the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous but the association took them over a few years ago.
Babe Southwick was a longtime musher and sprint racer from Destruction Bay. She was president of the Yukon Dog Mushing Association when she died in 1964.
Members of the Southwick family are involved in the event every year, Johnson said. This year one of Southwick’s daughters and grandson handed out the awards at the final banquet.
Johnson said the event is put on every year by a group of dedicated people and support from the community.
“There’s a small group of people who are doing this and they all just did such a great. job. Everyone really worked hard.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org