Brent Sass and his sled dog team on the trail outside Dawson City on Feb. 5. (Julien Schroder/YQ2019)

Mushers say 2019 Yukon Quest trail in good condition despite low snowfall

Yukon musher Rob Cooke was dragged behind his sled following a bad tangle

The 2019 Yukon Quest has been a little different than most years, thanks in large part to a low snow pack leading to the decision to truck teams from Braeburn to Carmacks.

Brent Sass, the first musher into Dawson, called this year’s quest “wacky” thanks to the changes.

“It just took us all out of our usual procedure, having to put the dogs in the truck and adding dogs at different times and stuff like that,” said Sass.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the general consensus from mushers has been that the trail is in excellent condition.

Almost all of the mushers that reached Dawson on Feb. 5 said that the trail was in excellent shape.

Paige Drobny, who is currently in fifth place, said that while there was a “little bit” of overflow on the way into Dawson, it wasn’t something that bothered her or her team.

“The trail is in great shape actually,” said Drobny. “I mean the whole trail from the start has been great.”

Yukoner Nathaniel Hamlyn said the trail was “really good.”

“Towards (Dawson), there was a lot of snow,” said Hamlyn. “Towards the front, there wasn’t much at all. It was really nice, this snow, after not having it.”

Earlier in the race on Feb. 4, musher Rob Cooke spoke to the News in Pelly Crossing. He also said that the trail was in good shape.

“All the overflow we were told we would see before Braeburn never materialized,” said Cooke. “It had all frozen and snowed on top, so it’s been a good trail — a really good trail. The Rangers did a fantastic job.”

Even with a good trail, there are still close calls and problems for teams.

Cooke said he and his team had some issues approximately 16 kilometres before reaching Pelly Crossing when he came across a glacier and his team took a wrong turn.

“I don’t know why the dogs took a wrong turn,” said Cooke. “(The dogs) went up a blind turn and got caught. I had to try to turn them around.”

The wrong turn had led his team into a narrow area and Cooke said his team had a really bad tangle.

“I took my mitts off and chucked them on top of the sled,” said Cooke, adding his sled was pointing the complete wrong direction at that point.

He said he pulled his team back onto the trail and that they were still tangled up.

“I tried to pull the sled back onto the trail and as I pulled the sled back onto the trail, the whole team untangled itself and took off,” said Cooke.

The sled quickly flipped, pulling Cooke along behind.

“I’m getting dragged behind the sled, trying to get a snow hook in. Eventually (I) managed to stop them, and my mitts are like 15 feet back down the trail,” said Cooke. “They wanted to keep going, so I snacked them to try and shut them up a bit and then ran back really quickly, got my mitts and got back on the sled.”

Cooke said at that point, he wasn’t entirely sure he had and his team were headed the correct direction.

“I had to keep checking my GPS to make sure we were facing the right way.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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