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International Border Crossing, Hospitality Stops, and Trail-breaking Ahead for Quest Mushers

Snowy landscape of mountains and forest in background with sled dog team mushing on a trail in the foreground.

Brent Sass and Michelle Phillips continue to battle for first position as the 2020 Yukon Quest field approaches the halfway point of the 1,000-mile sled dog race.

After descending American Summit, Sass and Phillips are a mere mile from each other. According to the unofficial live tracker, Sass currently has the lead with about thirty miles to go until their next hospitality stop at Clinton Creek, which sits less than ten miles across the Canadian border.

However, Sass isn’t sure if maintaining first position is the best strategic move at this point in the race. Speaking with KUAC early this morning, he elaborated on the opportunity cost of breaking trail.

“We probably burned a little more energy than those guys back there but it’s blowing in quickly too so….”

– Brent Sass

According to Quest Race Marshal Peter Reuter, most of the trail has seen drifting snow and gritty conditions, which has led to slower times on average. He says these weather patterns shape mushers’ race-plans from the get-go.

“I think you just need to be able to adjust your strategy accordingly. If it takes a little longer to get to someplace then I think the prevailing wisdom would be to give your dogs a little more rest and that’s what it seems these mushers are doing. Slightly longer runtimes translates to slightly more rest.”

– Peter Reuter

Sass and Phillips, followed closely by Cody Strathe and Allen Moore, are expected to reach the Forty Mile hospitality stop sometime this afternoon. After that, they will continue to the first official checkpoint on the Yukon side of the trail: Dawson City.

Since this morning, Swedish rookie Nora Själin has checked into Eagle checkpoint in seventh position, joining Ryne Olson and Torsten Kohnert.

Image at top: On the trail near Dawson City. Photo: Julien Schroder, Yukon Quest (2019); used with permission.