The following publication-ready feature story, "Snowmobilers Converge on Dawson City", was written for Tourism Yukon by writer Ann Nourse. You are welcome to publish the piece free of charge and images to accompany the article are available by contacting our media relations department at the email address below. If you do print the story we would appreciate recveiving a copy of the published piece. Tourism Yukon wholly owns the rights to "Snowmobilers Converge on Dawson City".
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by Ann Nourse
In 1993, a small group of snowmobilers from Tok, Alaska woke up the town of Dawson City on their first annual Trek Over the Top, or the Tok to Dawson Poker Run, as some prefer to call it. As their arrival was unexpected, there was no welcoming committee, most of the stores and hotels were closed for the winter and there was little to do but to keep each other company.
Twelve years later all that has changed. There are over 600 participants from over 20 United States, Ontario, Alberta, the Yukon and, this year, even from Australia. The event is organized by the Alaska Trailblazers on the American side, and by the Trek Over the Top group on the Canadian side. It is divided into three groups, taking place over three weekends. Once the weary travelers arrive in Dawson City they are treated to the finest hospitality the Yukon has to offer.
It all starts with breakfast in Tok and then they’re off to maneuver the well-groomed trails on the Taylor and Alaska Highways in Alaska, and the Yukon’s Top of the World Highway. The 200-mile trip can take from four to twelve hours, depending on the weather and on the whims of the riders. Some stop to take in the breathtaking scenery, hoping to catch a glimpse of some caribou, moose or wolves. Others linger, their minds traveling back in time, wondering what it was like in the days of the Gold Rush or, before that, when it was newly purchased from Russia and called the “Icebox” by critics.
The first official stop is for fuel in Chicken, Alaska, so-called because the state bird, the Ptarmigan, greatly resembles a chicken and, some would say, because it’s easier to pronounce than “Ptarmigan.” If you’re interested in gleaning some historical facts, you’ll easily find some locals willing to delight you with intriguing stories passed down from their ancestors and their ancestors before them.
Another favourite stop along the way is the Jack Wade Gold Dredge, which sits alongside the Taylor Highway near Boundry, between Tok and Dawson City. This was one of the first bucket-line dredges used in the Gold Rush and, according to most sources, it lasted the longest. The 1934 dredge is still operational today and provides tourists with a glimpse into the gold rush years of yesterday.
On arrival in Dawson City by way of the frozen Yukon River’s “ice bridge,” it’s a good night’s sleep for everyone before beginning a whirlwind of activities arranged by Dawson’s Trek Over the Top organizers, Eric Zalitis and his wife, Laurie McCrory. They’ve both been involved in the Trek since the beginning and, says Zalitis, “The runs have a huge economic impact on the community. A couple of the hotels open their annexes and we also use bed and breakfasts. Further to that,” he adds, “they visit historic sites and do some shopping.”
In fact, Zalitis and McCrory have seen to it that there isn’t a boring moment during the entire weekend. Participants can visit the cabins of Robert Service and Jack London, or take an historical stroll through the streets that at one time teemed with Gold Rush pioneers, and where famous Yukoners once walked. There’s even a scenic snowmobile ride through Dawson and some of the outlying villages, with time set aside to snap some photos to add to the memorabilia they’ll take home with them. As an additional fundraiser, the Curling Club opens its doors for a fun-afternoon of competition.
Visitors are also encouraged to “shop Dawson” by being given a colour-coded coupon book which they must deposit at each participating store or business in order to be eligible for a draw to win gold from the Trek, which is held at the end of the run.
Every Trek has its special experience, says Zalitis. He recalls one very poignant occasion: “Several years ago,” he said, “a couple was married on the Midnight Dome before a hundred-plus snowmobilers. It was an incredibly memorable experience.”
Back in Tok at the end of the weekend, each participant draws a poker hand and the best hand can win up to $1,000.00, hence the alias “Tok to Dawson Poker Run.”
The Trek Over the Top is expected to continue for years to come, attracting participants from more states, more provinces and more countries.
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