Viktor Davare came prepared; facing regular temperatures below -30C wasn’t a problem for him in early February this year as he traversed throughout the Yukon and Alaska.
He had the right coat, a faux-fur lined hat and even hand warmers in his pockets in order to keep his fingers nimble for photographing, but warm enough to prevent frostbite.
The Comox Valley photographer recently returned from the arctic as one of the official photographers for the Yukon Quest – a 1,000-mile international sled dog race that follows the winter land routes travelled by prospectors, adventurers and mail carriers who travelled between the gold fields of the Klondike and the Alaska interior.
“The Yukon has some kind of magic,” explained Davare, who has photographed the event – and other northern races – before.
In 2017, Davare followed adventure racer Michal Kielbasinski on a 1,600km ultra-marathon journey from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska, and documented his story.
Since then, Davare connected with others who have been covering the race, including filmmakers who were creating a documentary.
He has photographed the race multiple times and plans to return as many times as he can.
Part of why he is so passionate about sharing his images is to break any negative stereotypes about dog sledding.
“It’s a way of life. People use dogsleds to take their kids to school; there’s absolutely zero negative consequences. The dog dies for you and you die for the dog – it’s a different way of life.”
Dog teams and their mushers travel across a vast landscape of lakes, rivers, overland trails and mountain passes.
Teams start with a maximum of 14 dogs, and the race requires mushers to have a minimum of six dogs to stay in the race. There are nine checkpoints, and the race takes approximately 10 days to complete.
All Yukon Quest sled dogs receive at least one, and often more, complete physical exams by the vet teams during their rest in Dawson City to ensure they are ready to compete in the remainder of the race.
Davare explained photographing the sport in the cold wasn’t too difficult on his equipment with the exception of some of his GoPros not fully functioning but added it was not always an easy shooting environment.
“You can’t make a mistake when you’re there … it’s not forgiving.”
Since returning to the Comox Valley, Davare has processed his images and is already planning his trip back next year.
He gladly supplies photos to the mushers and donates other photos to local organizations for support such as salmon enhancement programs.