NEWS: Around the Arctic January 29, 2014 - 10:16 am

Two Iqaluit men will test themselves against Cain’s Quest

Gruelling Labrador snowmobile endurance race the longest in the world


Jimmy Noble Jr. and Jason Aliqatuqtuq don’t remember when they first climbed onto a snowmobile saddle.

“We were practically infants,” Noble Jr. says with a laugh.

But Noble Jr. does remember falling off a snowmobile when he was a youngster, proudly pointing to the top of his forehead while leaning in with his elbow on a table at the Elks Lodge in Iqaluit.

“I got a good scar here from four-years-old from a skidoo incident,” Noble Jr. said. “I wasn’t driving.”

The two Government of Nunavut wildlife managers — who used to travel great distances on snowmobiles in their jobs — are hoping no accidents occur in the not-too-distant future. 

That’s because, on March 1, they’ll enter the world’s longest snowmobile endurance race: Cain’s Quest, based in Labrador. (See video embedded below.)

The two men will drag a sled full of supplies for five to six grueling days over un-groomed trails stretching around Labrador from east to west and north to south, through 20 checkpoints.

The race covers 3,300 km — that’s slightly longer than the border between Mexico and the United States, which runs for 3,145 km.

“It’s supposed to be one of the toughest races ever. You’re putting in a lot of hours and a lot of kilometers in the day,” Noble Jr. said.

This is the first time that a team from Nunavut has entered the race — and the two Nunavummiut face unusual handicaps. 

Namely: “trees, powdered snow, things we don’t have here,” Noble Jr. said.

“And rivers. Lots of rivers,” Aliqatuqtuq said.

The trees might slow them, they said, but they may have to move more quickly over the powdered snow. 

“For us we’ll probably go a little slow in the trees because we’re afraid of whacking into one,” Noble Jr. said.

The different kind of snow is a challenge as well. Both men are used to hard, packed snow or “concrete snow” as Noble Jr. describes it. 

“Powdered snow, you don’t know what’s underneath it,” Noble Jr. said.

“You gotta keep your speed up to stay afloat,” Aliqatuqtuq said.

The only thing the two can do now is “mentally prepare” and study the racing map, as well as do research on Google Maps.

The team is one of 30 from across Canada that will compete in Cain’s Quest.

First prize is $50,000, second is $30,000 and third is $20,000.

But the two aren’t setting their sights on placing within the top three.

“We’re honestly hoping to finish. That’s the target. Whether we place in the top 10… we’d be happy if we just finish,” Noble Jr. said. 

If the team does place in the top three, however, they would use the money to pay off debt.

The two had to buy new snowmobiles for the race, and other expenses like accommodation and travel brings their bill to $97,000.

The team said their sponsors — First Air, George’s Marine & Sports, Qikiqtaaluk Corp., the Iqaluit Legion and Kudlik Construction — have helped, as well as two fundraising events in Iqaluit — the last at the Elk’s Lodge Jan. 25, which raised about $5,000.

But despite the sponsors and fundraisers, a lot of the money comes directly from their pockets — but each say it’s worth it.

“When you’re doing something of this magnitude, you got to look at it like, as for us, to do as a bucket list thing to do,” Noble said.

“My attitude is: you dream, you live your dream, and you want to accomplish what you want to do,” he said.

“We’re big dreamers. We want to make this a reality,” Aliqatuqtuq said.

To learn more about the race, you can visit the Cain’s Quest website here.