FAIRBANKS — Sled-dog race organizers from Scandinavia are taking part in a fact-finding mission in Alaska this week.
Sixteen officials from Norway and Sweden met Monday in Fairbanks with organizers of the Yukon Quest International Sled Race. Later this week, they will be in Anchorage to meet with officials from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The visitors are hoping to learn from their American and Canadian counterparts on what they can do better for the sport in their own countries, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for years, to meet people and learn about the races and, of course, learn what we can do better,” said Svanhild Pedersen, manager of Norway’s 600-mile Finnmarkslopet sled-dog race.
Also in attendance were representatives from three other long-distance mushing events in Scandinavia. Their intent is to raise the international profile of mushing.
It’s already popular in Norway, where there are nightly national broadcasts during the Finnmarkslopet. But they are facing challenges, including raising funds to maintain dog safety as the races become faster.
The Scandinavians asked Marti Steury, the Alaska executive director for the Yukon Quest, about the role of veterinarians and race officials during the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest as well as keeping about a thousand volunteers engaged.
Steury spoke of the difficulties in the race that spans two countries. The race’s start and finish alternate yearly between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon.
Steury said Yukon Quest officials were happy to answer questions. He noted the race probably wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t received similar help from Iditarod officials.
“They’re struggling with the same issues,” Iditarod race director Mark Nordman said. “They’re learning from us, we’re learning from them.”
Pedersen said another goal of the trip was to entice Alaska mushers to compete in Europe, including a personal invitation to former Iditarod and Yukon Quest champion Jeff King on Sunday.
“The most important thing for us is to become more international,” Pedersen said.