Yukon Quest sled dog race begins today

Often called “the world’s toughest race”, the 2010 Yukon Quest international sled dog race begins today in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the top mushers, along with their teams of 14 dogs, setting out on a two week adventure through some of the most remote and wild backcountry found anywhere in North America.

The annual race, now in its 26th year, is a true test of stamina and skill. The racers will be challenged by a trail that is over 1000 miles in length, stretching from Fairbanks, to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory of Canada. The route, which runs along frozen rivers and crosses four mountain range, is one that has historical significance. It was once used to deliver mail during the boom years of the Gold Rush, and it is legendary for its harsh conditions. February in the Yukon brings sub-zero temperatures, howling winds, crazy blizzards, and whiteout conditions.

24 sled dog drivers, mostly from Alaska and Canada, will get underway from the starting line on the Chena River in Fairbanks at 11 AM local time today. Amongst the mushers is former champion Lance Mackey, who returns to the Yukon Quest after taking a year off in 2009. Mackey is also the three time defending champion of the Iditarod and the only man to win both races in the same year, a feat that had previously been thought to be impossible. He is considered the odds on favorite to win again this year.

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Yukon Quest website will post updates on the race that include current standings and live tracking of the mushers out on the course. We’ll just have to wait to see if the race lives up to its “world’s toughest” moniker.