If you’ve ever seen the Alcan 200 International Snow Machine Road Rally in person, you’d find it hard to believe the sledders could go any faster.
But three Yukoners did just that at the 46th annual race on Saturday.
All three made the podium and two won their divisions.
Haines Junction’s Ken Schamber and Whitehorse’s Justin Peterson raced to first-place finishes in their respective classes, while Peterson’s brother Nathan placed third in his.
“It was excellent, the conditions were almost perfect,” said Schamber. “There was good hard pack on the road, so we had really good traction for steering, and not as much wind as there has been in the past. The only real hindrance was a little bit of fog and some bare pavement at the bottom of the hill coming back.”
Schamber, 44, took first place in the 441cc-open fan class. He completed the 250-kilometre course from the Canada-U.S. border outside of Haines, Alaska, to Dezadeash Lake and back in a personal best time of one hour, 46 minutes and 53 seconds.
It was his fourth time winning the division in five years, having missed the race in 2013. Schamber, who was riding a Ski-Doo 550 Summit, has now done the race seven times.
“I worked on the road as snowplow operator and I got to witness it one year and I wanted to try it out,” said Schamber. “So I converted my sled as best I could and got out there, and my very first race had impeccable conditions: the sun was shining and the road was in great shape … And I was hooked from that moment on.”
Justin took first in the 0-440cc liquid class on his 2003 Arctic Cat 440 Sno Pro with personal best time of 1:29:45. He, too, is hooked on the rally, which is billed as the longest on-road snowmobile race in North America.
Saturday was the 27-year-old’s fifth consecutive time in the race, winning the same division in 2013 and placed third last year.
“It really gets your adrenaline going and it’s quite a thrill going that kind of speeds,” said Justin. “It’s a really good time.
“It was around zero degrees the whole race, which can make things a little slushy and have lots of asphalt exposed, but there were only a few miles of asphalt at the finish line on the way back,” he added.
Whitehorse’s Dale Panchuysuyn was in the same division and took fourth at 1:41:02.
Good conditions and fine engine tuning helped Schamber and Justin shave off time, but so did tight competition. Both Yukoners were neck-and-neck with Alaskan sledders on the way back to the border.
Schamber battled Fairbanks’ Randy Wood all the way back and Justin did the same with North Pole’s George Juhlin.
“He was ahead of me by 30 or 40 seconds when we got to the other end,” said Schamber. “When we turned around I was able to catch him … and we raced for about 50 or 60 kilometres side by side.
“I think we swapped positions five or six times and there was quite a bit of side-by-side. It was one of the most fun races I’ve ever done because of that.”
Justin outpaced Juhlin by 36 seconds on the way to Dezadeash and the two posted the exact same time on the way back.
“The two of us had a really good battle all the way back,” said Justin.
Nathan raced to a third-place finish in the 441-600cc liquid class, in which he took second last year by 38 seconds.
He posted the fastest time of the six Yukoners in the race, finishing in 1:27:31. The 25-year-old posted an average speed of 171 kilometres an hour – including fuel stops.
“With a little more fine tuning I could have gone faster … but it held together in one piece, which is the biggest thing,” said Nathan.
“I’m running a different engine than last year. I moved up to a 600 engine instead of a 500 last year. With a little more fine tuning I’m hoping to place a little better next year.”
“With the class changes it’s a lot more competitive race – they grouped the 500s and 600s together,” he added.
Whitehorse’s Cory Magenson was in the same class but did not finish because of engine failure.
Fellow Whitehrose sledder Mario Poulin took third in the 0-440cc fan class with a time of 1:51:25. He also took the prize for the oldest sled in the race, riding a 1980 Polaris TX 440.
“We’ve have over 50 sleds in the race before and I think we were down to 24 this year,” said Nathan. “Back in the day there was way more interest in it than there is today.”
“We’re going to try to get more people involved,” said Justin. “We’re thinking about going to visit the local high school and visit the ‘sled ed’ class (the mechanics class at Vanier) and talking to them about the race, trying to get younger people interested, make them aware, and what it takes to get a machine ready. It might not be as expensive as they think.”
Contact Tom Patrick at
0-440cc fan class
1st Dan Dickerson
(Fairbanks) – 1:46:59
2nd Nick Martin
(North Pole) – 1:50:12
3rd Mario Poulin
(Whitehorse) – 1:51:25
441cc-open fan class
1st Ken Schamber
(Haines Junction) – 1:46:53
2nd Randy Wood
(Fairbanks) – 1:47:12
3rd Phil Wood
(Fairbanks) – 1:50:58
4th Lyn Campbell
(Haines) – 2:11:04
0-440cc liquid class
1st Justin Peterson
(Whitehorse) – 1:29:45
2nd George Juhlin
(North Pole) – 1:30:21
3rd Gene Bloom
(Fairbanks) – 1:40:25
4th Dale Panchuysuyn
(Whitehorse) – 1:41:02
5th Blake Wade
(North Pole) – 2:38:01
441-600 liquid class
1st Steve Cornwall
(Fairbanks) – 1:25:04
2nd Troy Williams
(Fairbanks) – 1:25:52
3rd Nathan Peterson
(Whitehorse) – 1:27:31
4th Josh Moore
(Haines) – 1:29:18
5th Steve McLaughlin
(Haines) – 1:34:56
(Juneau) – DNF
(Whitehorse) – DNF
601-750 liquid class
1st Jack Smith Jr.
(Haines) – 1:25:19
2nd Rick Campbell
(Haines) – 1:28:00
3rd Zach Ferrin
(Haines) – 1:42:09
4th William Newman
(Haines) – 1:53:02
5th Fred Graham
(Haines) – 1:53:54
6th Chris Brooks