Northern dog sledding events are weighing up letting competitors from elsewhere in Canada compete in their events.
The Percy Dewolfe Memorial Mail Race usually attracts competitors from across the territories, but is only open to Yukon racers this year. Board member Gaby Sgaga said the decision was made by the organizers after looking at the territory’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“We just felt that it would just be really challenging and difficult for people to try to find somewhere to be for two weeks,” she said. “A musher would have to come with his team. It just sounded very, very complicated and difficult and we want to respect the regulations, of course, for COVID-19.”
The course has also changed for this year’s race. Usually the long distance event crosses the border with Alaska. But this year, the course has to stick within Yukon’s borders.
Yellowknife musher Marcel Marin participated in the event last year, and was hoping to compete again this year.
“It’s very disappointing, because the new race trail they have would have been pretty neat to do this year,” said Marin.
Despite only accepting Yukon based applications, Sgaga said she is confident the race will attract a number of competitors, and that the future of the race will be secure.
“We did a lot of fundraising last year before COVID came along and so that’s one of the impacts that is a bit negative — fundraising is difficult, obviously this year,” she said. “But we were very lucky to fundraise a lot last year and so we have enough to sort of tide us over. There’s absolutely no plans to cancel permanently.”
Marin is one of the organizers of the Under Dog 100, a shorter distance race, which will be open to people outside of the territory. Marin said he has had a couple of teams from B.C. and Saskatchewan already apply.
“They wouldn’t be in town around people, they’d be going out training on the trail to practice the route,” he said.
Marin said they’re trying to work with the GNWT to keep the race, which takes place March 26 going ahead. The teams from outside the territory have already submitted self-isolation applications already.
Marin said he was worried about the financial future of the race moving forwards if he didn’t keep the applications open to teams from outside NWT.
“It’s a tough one because we don’t have the finances, we’re not a big organization. So we don’t have big donations and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “If you start canceling too many races after a while, it just disappears.”
“So we’re gonna have the race this year, even if we end up having a minimal turnout, we’ll still have the race.”