By Morris Prokop

from The Whitehorse Star

DAWSON CITY – Michelle Phillips is the 2023 Yukon Quest champion – and wishes the trail hadn’t ended where it did. 

The 54-year-old veteran musher crossed the YQ450 finish line at 1:21 a.m. Feb. 15, and was greeted by a multitude of fans and media. 

She had departed from the Indian River Time Station at about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13. 

The Ten Mile, Yukon resident said she felt a little stiff and sore, but otherwise all right upon her arrival at the finish line. 

Asked if she’d ever had any doubt about whether she would win the race, she replied, “It’s a race, so you never know till the finish line. 

“Anything can happen, right? Break your sled, or something can happen. You never know.” 

Phillips finished the race with 12 dogs. She said they’re doing well.

“Really upbeat. I wish I could keep going.” 

The last leg from Indian River felt pretty fast, she added. 

“It’s slow going up the hill, for sure. That’s a long climb. But once we got up there, it felt pretty good.” 

Phillips was asked how it felt ending the race in Dawson after having done 1,000-mile Quests between Whitehorse and Fairbanks. 

“It feels really weird. Yeah, it’s kind of bittersweet. It was like, just going through a lot of memories for me. 

“I’ve been running dogs for 25 years,” she said. I’ve run 21 1,000-mile races. So I’ve been participating in this event for a long time. 

“And yeah, it was just a whole wave of emotions. Mushers that are not with us anymore and memories and sadness that the Yukon Quest hasn’t come together again. 

“Hopefully we can have another 1,000-mile race. It’s such a cool event. Such a neat thing to travel through such beautiful country, all the history.”

Phillips said she won’t be running in the Anchorage-to-Nome, Alaska Iditarod this year. 

Instead, she’ll contest the Percy De Wolfe race, which will start March 9 and runs from Dawson to Eagle, Alaska and back. 

Phillips was asked if her decision not to run in the Iditarod was a result of a controversial penalty she and Mille Porsild incurred last year for sheltering their dogs in a cabin during a vicious storm. The penalty was later rescinded. 

“Yeah, just decided to step away from the Iditarod and take a pause and yeah, just need a break,” Phillips said.

The YQ450 began Feb. 11 at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse.