Video: Yukon Quest 2012 gets started

This past weekend saw the kickoff of one of the year’s biggest sporting events. No, not the Super Bowl. The 2012 Yukon Quest began. What is Yukon Quest? It’s just your run-of-the-mill 1,000 mile dog sled race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. It follows the trail that prospectors took during the gold rush of the 1890s and celebrate the Yukon River, the “highway of the North.” And while the Iditarod may be more well-known, Yukon Quest is considered by many to be the most difficult race in the world. Mushers and their dogs will navigate the frozen wilderness for two weeks and friend-of-Gadling Eva Holland is along for the ride and posting dispatches on her Twitter feed. She passed along this video of the start of the race and we thought we’d share it with you because, well, it’s just plain awesome.

2011 Iditarod begins today

The 2011 edition of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway today in Anchorage, Alaska, where 62 mushers, and their teams of dogs, will set out on an 1131 mile journey to Nome. The event, which is billed as “The Last Great Race,” is an annual test of stamina and skill for both the dogs and their drivers.

The Iditarod was first run back in 1973 and over the years has easily become the most popular sporting event in Alaska. The event pays homage to an historic sled dog run that took place in 1925 in which teams of mushers raced against the clock to deliver a lifesaving diphtheria serum to Nome at a time when many children were stricken with the disease. Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen and his lead dog Balto became well known celebrities for completing the final leg into the town with the medical supplies in tow.

Today, the ceremonial start to the Iditarod will take place on 4th Avenue and D Street in Anchorage, where large crowds will gather to see the teams off. The real race gets underway tomorrow however, when the action moves to Willow. From there, the competition will truly get underway, with the top mushers expected to arrive in Nome in about 10-12 days depending on weather conditions.

The field is full of experienced teams, but the man to beat is still Lance Mackey, who is the four-time defending champ. Mackey and his dogs have easily been the fastest team over the past few years, and until someone steps up to take the crown, he’s still the odds on favorite. He may be challenged by 23-year old Dallas Seavey however. Seavey, who placed eighth last year, recently won the 1000-mile long Yukon Quest, and seems to be an emerging force in the sport.

Good luck to all the mushers and their dogs. Race well and stay safe on the trail.

[Photo credit: Kevin Horan/Getty Images]

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.