Dave Daley leaving the start in Churchill. Nace Hageman photo.
For a second consecutive year the Hudson Bay Quest dog sled race, that runs from Churchill to Gillam every March, has been canceled. The ongoing saga of a washed out train line, known as the Hudson Bay Line, after runoff from two late-season blizzards in 2017 has again wreaked havoc on the region’s lifestyle. Without the train line to transport dogs and supplies for mushers, the expenses would be too steep for those wanting to compete.
“Normally what would happen was we would have our sponsors bring the mushers’ dog teams either to Churchill or from Churchill, depending on which direction the race was going,” said Bill Dingwall, Hudson Bay Quest committee chair.
“But this year, without the train, we couldn’t guarantee that the teams would either be able to get to the start or the finish, or home from the finish.”
The alternative would be returning by land with the dog teams after the race finishes and the cost for most mushers would be prohibitive
“That was quite a daunting task for a lot of the mushers and it would have cost them a lot more money,” said Dingwell.
“Once we put out that you’d be on your own to get to the start and home after the finish, I think it was an easy decision for a lot of the guys.”
Last year the Quest was canceled as well by one of the severe blizzards that buried the open tundra and made the trail too treacherous to run the dog teams.
“We were very disappointed last year because it was such a last minute decision to cancel,” he said. “This year we knew going in not having a rail line was going to be extremely hard to do with logistics of moving mushers, moving handlers, moving even our race marshal, our vets, and everybody … It wasn’t safe to do it, honestly.”
The Hudson Bay Quest is well known among the heartiest mushers as one of the most challenging races in North America. it annually draws mushers from all over the world and some use it as a stepping stone to bigger races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. On a smaller scale, mushers are self – sufficient out on the land just like those races.
“It’s not as long [as others] but it’s a hard race … It’s so hard that if you finish the race, you get your registration money back. Doesn’t matter when you finish, we have a timeline, but if you finish we give your registration money back just because it’s that much of an accomplishment, we feel.”
In a “normal year”, which in the north such a phrase carries a completely different meaning, the Quest will draw from 12 – 16 mushers and dog teams. This year only four had entered this far and three of those opted to defer their registration fees to next years event with the hope that the train line will be repaired and the region will be back in business. A decision to only proceed this year if a minimum of six racers entered was made early on. With the deadline to enter looming race organizers officially pulled the plug on this one.
The race has been an iconic event for the region for a long time and once the rail line is repaired it will happen again. Churchill, in particular, has suffered extensively from the lack of train service. The polar bear season was a needed boost to the morale and economy of the town but a long-term solution is needed. Town officials expect news soon on the transfer of the port and accompanying rail line and the future of the Hudson Bay Quest. Stay posted to our site for upcoming news on the ongoing drama in the north!
Hudson Bay Quest musher off at the start. This year’s Quest is cancelled as a result of the recent blizzard! Brad Josephs photo.
Race organizers have made the decision to cancel the 2017 Hudson Bay Quest dogsled race due to the recent blizzard that buried the Churchill and Gillam regions this past week. The race was scheduled to depart Gillam this Friday, St. Patrick’s Day, and finish in Churchill.
Unsafe conditions are the main reasons for deciding to scrap the race this year as deep packed and drifting snow have blanketed the course and inhibited train service from Thompson to Churchill while track sections are being cleared. The train transports supplies as well as mushers and their dog teams to the race and serves as a lifeline to the south.
Just recently the Town of Churchill declared a State of Emergency, allocating resources toward snow removal and dealing with the aftermath of a storm that necessitated the Churchill community businesses to shut down for three full days last week. The race will be missed for sure, however the safety of the mushing teams and all support staff out on the trail between Gillam and Churchill is of prime importance.
Here is the official statement from the HBQ organizing committee: “While many sled dog races have cancelled due to lack of snow, we have wiped the smug looks off our faces now that we ultimately have too much snow. The Organizing Committee for the 2017 HBQ wishes everyone a safe and productive year as we navigate through this experience, and begin our planning for the 2018 Hudson Bay Quest.”
We look forward to the 2018 Hudson Bay Quest, back even stronger than before!
Two awesome shots by Alex De Vries Magnifico from Churchill. The Hudson Bay Quest photo made the cover of Manitoba Tourism visitor guide. The image of Dave Daley, a race organizer and competitor, captures the essence of the race start. Sled dogs are born to run and these dogs are roaring to go.
The other shot of the Northern Pike coming through the ice hole is a fantastic view of fishing this time of year in the north! You can almost feel the grip of winter relinquishing its grip and acquiescing to the coming thaw of spring. Both depictions are truly northern sub -Arctic in their feel.
Start of the Hudson Bay Quest. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
Ice fishing in the north. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
The Hudson Bay Quest finished this weekend without any major incidents and Ryan Anderson from Ray, Minnesota won gold with a time of 31:56:43! Ryan held off second place finisher Sean McCarty and third place finisher Peter McClelland to claim the top prize. Anderson also was awarded the Calm Air sportsmanship award as well as first to halfway honor. All in all this year’s race had fantastic weather and a great group of volunteers to facilitate all the challenges. Congratulations to all the mushers that competed in what has become one of the best races in the north!
Ryan Anderson wins the Hudson Bay quest. HBQ photo.
Ryan Anderson accepting the winners trophy. HBQ photo.
2016 Hudson Bay Quest mushers. HBQ photo.
The 2016 Vet award for exceptional animal care was presented to Jacob Heigers. HBQ photo.
Ryan Anderson also won the Calm Air sportsmanship award. HBQ photo.
As always the Canadian Rangers were key support for the 2016 Hudson Bay Quest. HBQ photo.
Here’s the official Hudson Bay Quest results for the top three finishers in Gillam. We will post the complete official results Monday or Tuesday. Congratulations to all the mushers and all the volunteers that made the 2016 Hudson Bay Quest a great race!
Bib # 7 Ryan Anderson in at 17:26:43 Bib # 5 Shawn McCarty in at 18:42:56 Bib # 11 Peter McClelland in at 20:16:52
Finish line at the HBQ in Gillam. HBQ photo.
Peter McClelland at the Hudson Bay Quest finish line. HBQ photo.
Hudson Bay Quest winner Ryan Anderson. HBQ photo.
Hudson Bay Quest runner – up Sean McCarty. HBQ photo.