It’s the 19th year for Trek Over the Top, and the second year the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) has the Yukon side of the operation under its umbrella.

The first run of this year’s Trek fortnight will begin in Tok, Alaska on March 1, with a return planned on March 4. The second Trek will take place from March 8 to 11.

When the KVA’s Paul Robitaille sits down with me to talk about the event, he’s not certain how many riders and sleds will be coming. Registration is still open in mid-February and the KVA is certainly hoping that the 145 people currently registered for both trips will grow closer to last year’s 282.

The deadline for registration was February 23, and the history of the event has been that there are always people who wait until the last minute to sign up.

Signing up has become easier, since the KVA’s new Point of Sale (POS) online booking system went into operation last spring (see my Klondike Korner from May 26, 2011, “Dawson Tourism Promotion Goes Digital”).

Because of online bookings, there are more choices of places for Trekkers to stay this year than in the past, which spreads the wealth around a bit.

There are quite a few Trekkers who have made this trip 10 or more times.

“It definitely says something about Dawson, about our hospitality, that these guys keep coming back, when they could easily go to Hawaii for almost the same cost and a lot less hardship. Let’s face it, it’s not an easy thing to do,” says Robitaille.

The Trek from Tok, where the Alaska Trailblazers started out for a lark back in 1993, is 200 miles to Dawson and 200 back. In its heyday the Trek experience had four runs: one from Dawson to Tok, and three coming the other way. Each of the three runs averaged over 150 people.

The decline is blamed on word of mouth after a couple of really bitter winters a few years back, but more on travel restrictions placed on US military personnel after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack and the subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Increasingly stringent border regulations on both sides haven’t helped either.

Our visitors can expect a warm welcome here. Visitor activity spiked during the Yukon Quest, but fell off right after, so it is always good to have fresh arrivals. Diamond Tooth Gerties gambling hall opens up, and merchants put on their smiles and make sure they have coupons in the Trek booklet.

Friday and Saturday are full of events for visitors with a luncheon at Gerties, curling at the Top of the World Curling Club, a Texas Hold’em poker tournament, a barbecue catered by Dawson firefighters, and entertainment from the Snowshoe Shufflers.

On Saturday the Dawson City Sled Dawgs will host a poker run with a historic sites theme, and the day concludes with another evening of dining and fun at Gerties. There is a more than slight risk of being hauled up on the stage.

Sunday, after a good night’s sleep, it’s off to Tok to bring an end to the adventure.

Robitaille says the KVA is already planning how to make next year’s 20th anniversary set of runs really special. From my own conversations with Trekkers over the life of the event, those who make the trip already view it that way.