Yukon Quest Race History

The Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race gets its name from the "highway of the north," which is the Yukon River and the historical winter land routes travelled by prospectors, adventurers and mail and supply carriers traveling between the gold fields of the Klondike and those in the Alaska interior.

ORIGINS OF THE YUKON QUEST

In 1983, four mushers sat at a table in the Bull's Eye Saloon in Fairbanks, Alaska. The conversation turned to a discussion about a new sled dog race and "what-ifs".

  • What if the race followed a historical trail?
  • What if it were an international sled dog race?
  • What if the race went a little longer?
  • What if it even went up the Yukon River?

As early as 1976, a Fairbanks to Whitehorse sled dog race had been talked of. But it wasn't until this conversation between Roger Williams, Leroy Shank, Ron Rosser and William "Willy" Lipps that the Yukon Quest became more than an idea. The mushers named the race the "Yukon Quest" to commemorate the Yukon River, which was the historical highway of the north. The trail would trace the routes that the prospectors followed to reach the Klondike during the 1898 Gold Rush and from there to the Alaskan interior for subsequent gold rushes in the early years of the 1900s.

The first Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race tested both race logistics and the talents of all involved. Twenty-six teams left Fairbanks in 1984. During the next 16 days, 20 teams arrived in Whitehorse.  Six teams were forced to drop out along the way.

Sonny Lindner became the first Yukon Quest champion, completing the race in just over 12 days.