Judy Beaumont talks about the early days volunteering in the Yukon Quest office. The
cramped space was shared with the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in the (former) Regina hotel.
“The office was in behind the bar, this little crappy office in the back,” she says. “We had to go through the kitchen and a plumbing room to get to it.”
Beaumont has volunteered for the Quest since 1992. She started taking billets at the suggestion of her musher neighbour, and has been doing so ever since.
Now a board member, Beaumont ran the Braeburn checkpoint for ten years. One year a huge field of mushers arrived, 43 in total, landed at Braeburn at the same time.
There was limited space for teams, so precision and planning was key to a restful stay.
“I was so proud of the volunteers that night. It was amazing, once all the teams were there and resting, it was completely quiet. You only noticed the headlamps of vets and mushers quietly walking around the teams.”
Beaumont also raves about the Canadian Rangers; they pack and mark the trail on the Canadian side. It’s a massive job, and they deal with extremely cold temperatures, and have to create trails in mountains of jumble ice on the Yukon River.
Gaby Sgaga has managed the Dawson City checkpoint since 2006; she’s been involved with the race since 1999. The Dawson checkpoint has the longest layover along the trail. But this year, twelve hours have been shaved off the layover time.
Sgaga doesn’t know how the layover change will affect her and the 30-plus volunteers, but she is ready for anything because the first year she managed the checkpoint the race ended in Dawson instead of Whitehorse due to lack of snow; she learned about the change with little time to prepare.
“That was exciting,” she says. “Most volunteers had already left so we found some people hanging around town and some locals to help out. We quickly got together everything needed to put the finish on the river.”
A recurring theme among the volunteers is that they are a big, (mostly) happy family. Lifelong friendships have been forges along the quest route.
“Like any family, there are always hiccups, but we still look forward to seeing each other year after year,” says Bev Regier.
Regier moved to the Yukon from Victoria twelve years ago and wanted to meet some people. So she wandered into the Quest offices.
She had never heard of the Yukon Quest.
Now she’s in the thick of things. She is the jack-of-all-trades in the Quest volunteer world. She answers phones, works in the office, arranges billets, does fundraising and arranges silent auctions.
Do she ever get a break?
“Nope. It’s year round work, there are board meetings every month throughout the summer, we have joint planning sessions and I call around local businesses to arrange for sponsorship.”
In 2013, Regier was awarded a Tourism Industry Association of Yukon Volunteer of the Year award.
Those days in the cramped office at the Regina hotel are long gone, but the passion remains.
“The Yukon Quest is a race run on volunteers, it takes a lot of us to make it happen.”