Musher Brent Sass of Wild and Free Kennels has earned a reputation as the epitome of sportsmanship in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Since his initial run in the 2006 Yukon Quest 300, Brent – and his legendary lead dog Silver – have saved the day numerous times. From helping mushers chase down their runaway dog teams, to guiding stranded mushers off mountain peaks during whiteout blizzards, to hooking himself into the lead dog position to drag a competitor’s sled over the top of a mountain summit, Brent Sass has proven himself a model musher, sportsman and Alaskan. Here is a look at Brent’s Best Moments from the Trail of the Yukon Quest:
2006 – Sass Leads Stuck Mushers Down Eagle Summit
In 2006, Brent and Silver competed in their first Yukon Quest race – the Yukon Quest 300. The 300 mile route over Rosebud and Eagle Summit ends at the small community of Circle and follows several hours behind the main race. When Brent and his team arrived at Eagle Summit, whiteout conditions, heavy snow and freezing rain rendered the 3,650 ft pass almost impassable. Brent and Silver guided two mushers (including one who had lost his team) down the summit. Silver broke trail through 4 feet of snow, finding the buried trail through the blizzard. The mushers who remained on top of Eagle Summit were airlifted off later that day.
Sass the class of Quest 300 – Eric Goold, Wild and Free Mushing – Alaska
2007 – Sass Reunites Yuka Honda, Runaway Team
Odd-numbered race years start in Whitehorse, with the trail going over the frozen lakes and rivers of the Yukon. Brent had to drop Silver after a shoulder injury, but came upon fellow musher Yuka Honda on the trail – with her team nowhere in sight. It should be noted that losing your dog team is a very dangerous event – both for the dogs and the musher. Sharing his sled runners with Honda, Sass ran at full speed for ten miles until catching up with the runaway team on a frozen lake. After securing the team, Brent flagged down a small airplane with news that one of Honda’s dogs had expired. This was the second time that Brent had helped a musher regain their lost team during the Yukon Quest.
More heroics from Sass – Wild and Free Mushing – Alaska
2009 – Sass Helps William Kleedehn Over Eagle Summit
In 2009, Yukon Musher William Kleedehn was locked in a tight race with several other racers for the lead. When the leaders approached Eagle Summit, Kleedehn’s lead dog went into heat and the team would not go over. Another musher helped Kleedehn part way up the summit before having to continue his own race. Several other mushers passed Kleedehn before Brent and Silver arrived. Brent mushed his team to the top before hiking back down the hill to play “lead dog” and help Kleedehn over the summit.
Yukon Quest 2009: A few grunts and yips broke the morning silence… – John Goedeke, Mushing Magazine
2011 – Brent & Silver help near-hypothermic Hans Gatt over American Summit
The Yukon Quest has earned a reputation for extreme cold – especially in the creeks and river valleys. In 2011, four-time Quest champion Hans Gatt and his team went up to his neck in overflow – at fifty degrees below zero. When Gatt, suffering from second-degree frostbite, got stuck in whiteout conditions on American Summit he attempted to activate his rescue beacon. Instead, he accidentally reset it. Four hours later, cold and wet and hunkered down in his sleeping bag, Brent Sass arrived with his team. Rousing Gatt and hooking their two teams together, Brent and Silver made it over American Summit and into Eagle. According to Gatt, if it weren’t for Brent and Silver, he “might not have made it.”
First-hand footage of the 2011 rescue of Hans Gatt at American Summit:
Weather Hampers Yukon Quest Racers – Emily Schwing, KUAC
2013 – Sass Helps Berkowitz Over Eagle
“Eagle Summit almost claimed another one,” explained Brent Sass after helping fellow musher Jake Berkowitz over Eagle Summit. The two mushers were battling for 3rd and 4th place as the race approached Eagle Summit. Arriving first, Berkowitz’s team had difficulty making it over the steep north face of the summit. Unhooking his team from his sled, Jake tipped his sled over (to prevent it from sliding down the hill) and began dragging it up the summit. Brent caught Jake soon after, drove the Wild and Free team to the top of the hill, and then returned and played “lead dog” to help get Jake’s team over the Eagle Summit.
News of the dramatic tale from atop Eagle Summit spread fast. Click the headlines below to read more:
- Yukon Quest musher Berkowitz runs into trouble on Eagle Summit – Jeff Richardson, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Sass to the Rescue… Again (with audio) – Emily Schwing, KUAC
2011 – Silver Legacy Award
At the Awards Banquet of the 2011 Yukon Quest, a special award – created to honor Silver, the lead dog who had guided Brent’s team since 2006 – was unveiled. The Silver Legacy Award will be given only to dogs whose feats on the trail reflect the sheer determination, work ethic and heroism of the award’s namesake. To date, Silver is the award’s only recipient. The award hangs in Brent’s living room in Eureka. Silver, now in retirement, has a prime spot just outside the front door and is considering a second career in motivational speaking.
Yukon Quest honors its contestants at banquet – Suzanna Caldwell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
You can join Brent Sass and Silver this summer! At Northern Adventure Tours, our guides are long-time Alaskans with many years of experience in the Northern Outdoors. With over 30 Alaska Highway trips under our belts, we know this country well. From dog mushing to commercial fishing to building cabins in the woods, we have lived the Alaskan lifestyle – and we are ready to share it with you! Our self-drive auto tours to and from Anchorage, Alaska and Spokane, Washington include a private car, gourmet meals, and luxury camping accommodations unlike anything else you will find in the north. Learn more and book your exclusive tour by visiting www.NorthernAdventureTours.com