Arctic Quest mushers hit their stride
“A fantastic celebration of Inuit culture”
The Nunavut Arctic Quest dog team race got underway in Arctic Bay, April 24 in the afternoon to windy, overcast weather.
Following a slight delay, 11 teams set off at 2 p.m., said Irene Willie, secretary-treasurer and organizer of this year’s edition.
Snowmobile drivers preceded the teams at 1 p.m., advancing 50 miles ahead to set up the first checkpoint on the way to Igloolik, where the race is expected to finish May 1.
Mushers were set to begin their second day late in the morning on April 25, said Willie, following a successful first leg, and first overnight at the first checkpoint.
“They said it went well,” said Willie, with no delays expected on day two.
Established in 1999, the 500-kilometre race is running its usual route from Arctic Bay to Igloolik, with experienced mushers, most of them having participated in previous years, taking to the trail.
Weather is the main challenge, Willie said.
“If they don’t stay an extra day at the same camp due to weather, they should arrive in Igloolik May 1,” she said. Here the mushers will celebrate the close with a ceremony and prizes to top finishers, with the winner to earn $10,000.
Participants from four communities are taking part this year.
Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest, as the race is known by its full title, “is truly a community event with the racer, elders, youth, support teams and others all getting involved,” said a news release from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
The QIA, along with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and First Air, are top sponsors of the event — not to mention several other private and pubic agencies operating in the Baffin region.
“It’s not just the challenges of the weather and the environment that makes this a great event,” Okalik Eegeesiak, QIA president, said in the news release. “It’s also a fantastic celebration of Inuit culture.”