It may feel like spring in the southern regions of Quebec, but that is not keeping mushers from taking part in two dogsled races this month.
Despite freezing rain in the days leading up to the event and temperatures forecast to be well above freezing on race weekend, the Fourth International Dogsled Race of Wendake is expected to go ahead as scheduled on March 17-18. Taking place in Wendake, the only Huron-Wendat community in Canada, located only 15 minutes outside downtown Quebec City, the races feature more than 60 dogsled teams, competing in a number of categories such as 6-, 8- and 12-dog teams. To make things interesting, participants are competing for a grand total $12,500 in prize money.
All races take place on a 16-km trail located on a railway corridor through the community of Wendake. Race start and finish lines are located near Wendake’s renowned Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations, which will also serve as the focal point for the weekend’s activities.
In addition to dogsledding, a number of family-oriented activities are planned. This will include an outdoor eating area offering traditional Wendat cuisine, and a Cabane à sucre, better known in English as a “sugar shack”, which will be providing sweet treats. Visitors will also have the chance to learn the basics of snowshoeing and participate in dogsled tours through the community between races. The weekend will be capped with an awards presentation on the afternoon of March 18.
Warm weather was not a concern for organizers of the 2012 Ivakkak Dog Team Race, the most grueling and one of the most popular events to take place in Quebec’s Far North. In fact, heavy snow and high winds delayed the start of race by a day for the 11 participating teams. Finally getting underway on March 13, the Ivakkak race tests the endurance of man and dog alike, as the teams wind their way across the North from Kangiqsualujjuaq to Kangirsuk. The race is expected to last approximately 10 days, depending on the whims of Mother Nature, with stopovers planned in Kuujjuaq, Tasiujaq and Aupaluk.
All of the teams hail from Inuit communities across Nunavik, and are composed of 8 to 12 husky dogs each, led by a master and race partner. The race trail covers a distance of over 650-km, following the coast of Ungava Bay. In addition to the challenges posed by potentially harsh weather conditions, each team must follow tough race rules that force them to be self-sufficient, and to transport all the supplies they will need to complete their journey on their sleds.
An interesting aspect of this year’s race is a rule change that will have a dramatic impact on race strategy. In past years, the race was a time race, meaning that mushers had to stop at the end of each day and camp out together at predetermined checkpoints. This year, aside from mandatory layover periods in Kuujjuaq, Tasiujaq and Aupaluk, the mushers will manage their own schedules and make their own decisions as to how they manage their dog teams. The first team to make it to Kangirsuk will be declared the winner.
At the finish line, the 2012 Ivakkak champion be presented with the Ivakkak Cup, and will receive a $12,000 gift certificate from the Federation of Co-operatives of Northern Quebec (FCNQ), a $12,500 cash prize from the Makivik Corporation, organizers of the race, as well return flights to Montreal from First Air, with accommodation at the Quality Inn Suites. Cash and product prizes will also be presented to the silver and bronze medalists, and draws for prizes will be held for other participating teams.
Fans can keep up-to-date as the race progresses by visiting the Ivakkak 2012 website at www.ivakkak.com, or by tuning in to TNI radio or CBC North.