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High Adventure on the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally

by | March 1, 2024

With my own eyes, I saw a large lynx cross the road ahead of us as we rounded a corner, with a sizable hare in its mouth destined to become the cat’s next meal. The lynx was massive, perhaps 40 pounds, and sleek in its ticked white winter coat.

Alcan 2024 mountain vista

The Alcan 5000 celebrates its 40th anniversary of folks “suffering” through views like this one.

It’s 6:30 a.m. in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and the parking lot of a hotel on the edge of town is abuzz with activity. The sun has not yet peeked up over the horizon, and it will not yet for at least a couple of hours.

It’s also 23 degrees below zero as 40 teams unplug their engine heaters and get their cars, trucks, and SUVs warmed up for the day ahead. The day will begin with about an hour spent running a challenging Time-Speed-Distance rally segment, and be followed by a 620-mile transit to Fort Nelson, British Columbia. The next day, we’ll do it all again.

Welcome to the Alcan

The Alcan 5000 rally is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. From the first time Jerry and Colleen Hines got the crazy idea that you could run a TSD rally in the far north in the middle of winter, and people said yes to the challenge. The Winter Alcan runs every four years on the leap years, and the Summer version is offset by two years, like the Olympics.

Alcan 2024 sign collection

Part time-speed-distance rally and part long run, the Alcan requires precision. There are signs to clearly mark the route.

Each year, 40 teams compete for a small trophy and very large bragging rights. The rally runs for 5,000 miles, leaving Seattle and going to places like Yellowknife or Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, then to Coldfoot, Alaska, and generally ending up in Anchorage. Along the way, there’s bitter cold, deep snow, treacherous ice, and the odd unexpected challenge.

Time-Speed-Distance rally has been called “motorsports for the chess club.” Rather than emphasizing raw speed, a TSD rally focuses on precision driving – the ability to match a specified average speed while following route instructions. It’s harder to do than it sounds, and if you want to do well, there’s math involved.

Each team is made up of a navigator and a driver, and they may drive any vehicle they choose, as long as it passes a safety inspection. Top teams will finish up to 10 hours of competitive TSD on the rally with well under 30 seconds of error. Other teams, like the one for which this reporter is navigating, will have several minutes of error.

More adventure stories

Check out the ride

Alcan 2024 American Bison

If you get lost during the race, these guys are always available to help out.

Our vehicle of choice is a 2022 GMC Sierra AT4 crew cab pickup truck. It was chosen for its advanced 4WD capability, the range of its 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine, and for its comfort on rough roads. We’re riding on Bridgestone Blizzak studless winter tires, which have so far carried us about 4,000 miles without losing traction on any surface. Other teams range from a brand-new Ineos Grenadier 4X4 to a 1973 Ford Capri with its original rear-drive configuration. Full-size pickups and SUVs are popular choices, as are Subaru cars.


At this point in the rally, there are three or four teams at the top of the standings, with a shot to win overall, and the rest of us with scores spread so far out that we know where we’ll be landing. But the competition actually becomes less important as the miles roll on. What we’ll remember is what we saw and what we did along the way.

Back to the wildlife

Alcan 2024 Yukon city limits sign

This is one of the places you will travel through during the event, although it could be an indication that you’re lost.

With my own eyes, I saw a large lynx cross the road ahead of us as we rounded a corner, with a sizable hare in its mouth destined to become the cat’s next meal. The Lynx was massive, perhaps 40 pounds, and sleek in its ticked white winter coat.

We’ve seen hundreds of American Bison, thriving in the snow of the Yukon and northern British Columbia, and a moose that stood as tall as our truck. The landscape of the far north is also impressive, with young mountains breaking high above the forest, hot springs that smell of sulfur and support species that exist nowhere else on Earth but at that particular spring, and of course the northern lights, which have been out on several occasions.

This is my third trip to the northland on the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally. What keeps me coming back is a combination of the land and the friends I make along the way. The high adventure of the journey cannot be matched anywhere else.

And finally, the unexpected realization of just how large and diverse North America really is, and how temperate, verdant, and mild is the climate of the United States where I live. Coming to the Arctic is a revelation, and I recommend it to anyone bold enough to go.

You can find out more about the Alcan 5000 rallies at


  1. Nice article Jeff. I enjoyed your posts along the Way..
    Thanks for sharing with us less Winter Time Race Enthusiast.. Hope to see you around The Race Tracks in The Lower 48, Portland International Raceway & Hopefully at The SCCA Run-offs in Wisconsin this Fall..
    It will be my 6th time there..
    Race On My Friend & Keep those Wonderful Articles coming.. Too bad SCCA Sports Car magazine is No More… I’ve been an SCCA member since 1981… Before that I F&C’d on a Log Book…

  2. The making of a documentary, fellows. Great story. Go, Chandler. We love you.

  3. Great comments
    Saw you all in YK- what we locals call Yellowknife
    I was the guy in the Carrera 4 Cabrio drooling over the Dakar
    Gotta do this someday!
    Best wishes


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