February 13, 2006

Storm traps racers on Alaska-Yukon sled dog race

CENTRAL, Alaska (Reuters) - Military aircraft rescued two
people on Monday and planned to airlift two other competitors
who had been trapped in a mountain blizzard during the Yukon
Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Teams competing in the 1,000-mile (1,600-km) Yukon Quest
from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon were attempting to
cross Eagle Summit northeast of Fairbanks when a blizzard
struck late on Sunday.

"Once you were up there, there was no going back it was
like being a sandstorm. The snow was pelting me and the dogs so
hard you couldn't even look in to it," said Regina Wycoff, a
racer who made it through the storm.

A helicopter flew two mushers and their dog teams to a race
checkpoint in good condition and was expected to try to airlift
the remaining two teams, according to race officials.

Three of the four teams caught in the blizzard were
competing in the race for the first time. The trapped racers
included a Canadian, two Alaskans and a Japanese national
living in Alaska.

Twenty two teams began the race on Saturday and the winner
was not expected to reach Whitehorse until next week.

The Yukon Quest is less famous than the 1,100-mile Iditarod
Sled Dog Race, but some experts in the sport contend it is a
more difficult contest because it has steeper terrain and
greater distance between checkpoints.