NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Reviving a sled race tradition
Toonik Tyme organizers want to bring back Spring Fever snowmobile event

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 3, 2014

The Toonik Tyme committee is close to resurrecting a popular South Baffin snowmobile race, according to chairperson Travis Cooper.

The Spring Fever race, in which participants drive from Iqaluit to Kimmirut and back - a distance of roughly 314 kilometres - was put on hiatus in 2006 due to liability issues and revived for one year in 2009 after being held on a regular basis since the 1970s.

"Logistically, at this time, I believe we are getting quite close to bringing back the event and our insurance agency is very supportive of getting this tradition back on course and are fascinated by the experience," Cooper said.

"This is an event that people from both communities have expressed their desire to see returned and has always been one of my favourites while growing up in Iqaluit. If there is one race in Nunavut that you can brag about for a whole year as being the best, it's this race."

The event was brought back for a one-off in 2009 by Jimmy Akavak, Jimmy Noble Jr. and Pauloosie Nuyalia but the race hasn't been held since.

Cooper said ensuring the safety of participants is a priority for organizers, who will make sure the trail is safe prior to the race.

They will also make the necessary preparations in terms of having cabins ready to stop at along the race path.

The format of the race is still up in the air, though, and will depend on upcoming conversations between the committee and other organizers, Cooper said.

"It's a race for the brave, the experienced and knowledgeable," Cooper said.

Historically, the race has been held a number of different ways.

Participants have travelled to Kimmirut and back by dog sled, which is the most intensive and time-consuming format.

They've also raced using snowmobiles without qamutiik, which gave the advantage to participants with quick machines, but the latest incarnation of the race saw contestants pull a qamutik loaded down with various gear such as a sleeping bag, food and fuel.

Noble Jr., who is taking part in a gruelling race of his own soon - Cain's Quest, a 3,300-kilometre journey through Labrador's harsh terrain - won the 1999 edition of the Spring Fever race.

He said he was happy to hear it would potentially be back this year.

"We had struggles in terms of liabilities and who would be responsible for what if there was an accident during the race," he said.

In 2009, Noble and Akavak made racers sign liability waivers to take responsibility for their own safety.

Noble said the terrain between the communities isn't too rough but is subject to wind conditions.

"Much like in any other part of the territory, the terrain can be rough," he added.

"There are rolling hills and deep valleys. Some years the trail can be smooth if there is a lot of traffic between the communities, but sometimes it can be bad."

The committee hopes to have the official speed record as soon as they compile the results from past races.

One aspect of the race has already been determined:

how the winning racer will be celebrated upon return to Iqaluit.

"The winner will be hoisted up by community members in the Nakashuk School baseball diamond, where many of the (past Toonik Tyme) games were held," he said.

The 2014 edition of the Toonik Tyme Festival, celebrated since 1965, will be held from April 11 to 20.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.