2013 Yukon Quest Sled Dog race is underway in Canada. The annual event runs between Whitehorse in the Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska, covering 1000 miles (1600 km) of winter wilderness in the process.
Racers set off on Sunday with some of the top mushers in the world competing with one another. Up until yesterday, it was a relatively fast start, although race organizers warned the competitors that is about to change. Heavy snow across the region has buried the trail in quite a bit of fresh powder and the next 100 miles of the race are said to be some of the toughest ever. The snow is so deep at points that the crew in charge of keeping the trail open have had a tough time keeping up. In some places, the trail is actually under as much as three feet of snow.
Meanwhile, the lead racers are into the Dawson City checkpoint, where they are typically required to take a 36-hour mandatory rest. Race organizers have extended that rest time by an additional 4-hours for the safety of the dogs, but they are also conducting drug tests on the animals there too. Yep, that's right, we've now entered an era in which sled dogs are being tested for performance enhancing drugs!
As of this writing, the musher Hugh Neff leads the race. He won the event last year and has a couple of hours on second place racer Allen Moore. Neff has had to drop two dogs already however, which could be a cause for concern down the line. Jake Berkowitz is currently running in third place, an additional five hours back.
The Yukon Quest is always an excellent precursor to the Iditarod, which will begin on March 2nd. That annual sled dog classic, billed as "The Last Great Race" covers a thousand miles as well, although this year the race is facing challenges with a lack of snow on some parts of the course. Hopefully in the next three weeks leading up to the start, snow will fall across the trail, which runs from Anchorage to Nome.