Trailbreakers battle ice blocks on Quest

Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2001

FAIRBANKS - Volunteer trailbreakers are attacking huge slabs of ice on the Yukon River with chainsaws, using brute force to cut a trail through the jumbled ice for the running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Due to a prolonged freeze-up on the river, chunks of ice the size of compact cars jut skyward along with thousands of smaller pieces of ice.

Race manager Leo Olesen said the trailbreaking that began last month is going well. Trailbreakers have cleared a trail, with minimal rerouting. Olesen said crews still have about 190 miles of trail to clear between Circle and Eagle.

The 1,000-mile race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks begins Feb. 11.

The trail has been marred by poor ice conditions in previous years, but overall conditions this year are the worst in the race's 18-year history, Olesen said.

Some mushers think the poor trail conditions will make for slower overall finish times this year.

Quest veteran John Schandelmeier said he's not losing sleep over what could be a slow run down the Yukon.

"It's just another trail," Schandelmeier said. "If you can get a snowmobile over it you can certainly get a dog team over it with your eyes closed."

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