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!
All the gee’s and haw’s have drifted across the tundra upwards to the northern lights have ceased for another year as the 2015 Hudson Bay Quest has finished in Churchill. This year’s champion is Martin Massicotte from Trois Rivieres, Quebec.
2015 Hudson Bay Quest champion Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
Martin runs a paving contracting business in Quebec and dreamed of being a dog musher since age eight when he trained the family St. Bernard. In 2003 martin placed 6th in the Yukon Quest, a race that runs 1000 miles from Yukon to Alaska. He has aspired to run the Hudson Bay Quest and the Iditarod in a few years. he can now check off the Quest in a big way…with a first place prize and trophy!
His passion for the sport of dog mushing is summed up succinctly by this quote: “In leisure time, I run dogs, I think about dogs and I talk about dogs!!!”
Congratulations to Martin and all the other hearty mushers that competed in this year’s race. See you all next year!
2015 Hudson Bay Quest winner Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
Canadian Rangers from the Lamprey checkpoint won best checkpoint. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
2015 Hudson Bay Quest mushers. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.
Come to Churchill for the start of the 2016 Hudson Bay Quest!
The Hudson Bay Quest’s mushing roster has been trimmed down to 14 as the race draws nearer. Al Hardman has withdrawn his entry and Elizabeth Graves, after just qualifying in the John Beargrease Marathon in Two Harbors, MN, also had a change in plans and cannot attend. The Hudson Bay Quest starts in Gillam, MB this year on March 13th. Churchill, shrouded in snow with aurora borealis overhead ,will welcome mushers over the ensuing few days.
Churchill musher Charlie Lundie and his dog team. Steve Selden photo.
Al ran in the 2000 Iditarod and finished 37th. He then placed 21st in the 2002 Iditarod. In 2004 a virus struck his dog team on the first half of the race though he was able to nurse them to the finish in 59th place. Al is a retired CEO of his own company Hardman Construction in Michigan.
Elizabeth, a musher from Ely, MN, competed in the mid-distance leg of the Beargrease which is the longest sled dog marathon in the lower 48 states at nearly 400 miles. She was able to qualify for the Hudson Bay Quest through her efforts in the Beargrease.
Start of the 2014 Hudson Bay Quest in Churchill, Manitoba. Brad Josephs photo.
Hudson Bay Quest entrant Ryan Anderson won the Beargrease race edging out three time champion Nathan Schroeder by 28 minutes. Anderson also beat Schroeder to the finish line in 2011 by just 20 seconds.
Snowfall in Churchill piling up. Hudson Bay Quest photo.
The OFFICIAL 2015 HBQ race roster is as follows:
1.) Martin Massicotte
2.) Dan DiMuzio
3.) Dave Daley
4.) Justin Allen
5.) Tom Terry
6.) Peter McClelland
7.) Jesse Terry
8.) Jennifer Freking
9.) Charlie Lundie
10.) Blake Freking
11.) Denis Tremblay
12.) Ryan Anderson
13.) Shawn McCarty
14.) Leonard McPherson
Dog sledding in the north is part of the fabric of the culture. Enjoy this documentary of the Inuit lifestyle. Following another successful Hudson Bay Quest on the heels of the Iditarod in Alaska, this documentary gives good insight into the extent dogs play in northern peoples culture. Everywhere you go in Churchill dog yards or remnants of old ones exist. Over the past decade dog sledding interest in Churchill has peaked. With the way the mushing scene is gaining traction all over the world it can only continue to grow even more.
Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths by Ole Gjerstad & by Joelie Sanguya, National Film Board of Canada