Bernadette’s Take on
Crispin Studer from Carcross, Yukon
Musher, prospector, lucky guy
Do you know that the most successful mushers in the Yukon Territory are not Canadians?
They are Austrians, Germans and Swiss.
Swiss like Crispin Studer (33). You have to wonder how a boy from the small town of Erlach in the Swiss canton Berne ends up as a musher and prospector in the Yukon.
It is one of these mysterious turns that life takes when a young technical draughtsman wants to experience what he calls “a real winter”.
Well, in the Yukon, you have winter from November all the way through to March.
Crispin stumbled on some very amazing coincidences in his life. At age 21, he traveled to the Yukon Territory because a Swiss acquaintance had told him about a musher in Whitehorse named Frank Turner who had sled dogs.
Soon after, Crispin spent seven months learning how to train sled dogs in the Canadian North. This is probably about the most distant thing from the machines Crispin learnt to draw (to my knowledge, machines do not bark and drool). Luckily for him, he also met his future wife Mélanie Bédard with whom he spent two more months in Québec where she is from.
I can assure you that Crispin speaks impeccable French with her and their two 1.5 and 4.5 year-old boys (I have heard him doing so on the phone).
Crispin returned to Switzerland but spent two more winters training sled dogs in the Yukon Territory. In return, Mélanie spent two and a half years in Switzerland with her Swiss boyfriend. But eventually the couple settled in the community of Carcross, 45 minutes south of Whitehorse.
Crispin continued training sled dogs for other people.
One day, he seized the opportunity when he could buy some good sled dogs. Today he owns 29 dogs and is a real musher.
Then he had another lucky incident. When he was looking for another job, an acquaintance told him about a geologist who was looking for a prospector. The geologist taught Crispin how to be a prospector. He thought if this Swiss guy is comfortable being a musher, then he will be able to survive in the bush.
For Swiss readers: Prospectors are the people who go out into the bush and the wilderness to look for deposits of precious or base metals.
Today, Crispin is prospecting for gold, copper, silver, platinum, palladium, zinc and lead.
When he finds a deposit, he stakes a claim (he reserves the area for exploration) and gets a permit from the government.
It is time to place a UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to see what prospector Crispin has come up with.
Crispin, have you found any gold in the Yukon Territory?
Yes, actually I have. When I find something, I try to sell it to a mining company. It is hard rock mining, by the way, not placer mining.
Can you can make a living with prospecting?
Sure. I work 70 per cent for other companies and 30 per cent for myself. Sometimes I am in a camp or I am taken by helicopter into the bush where I continue on foot or ATV.
What does it take to be a prospector?
Knowledge, good luck and a sense for it.
Aren’t you afraid of getting lost in the bush?
No, there is not much danger in the bush. I always have a dog with me, and my GPS and a map. I only go prospecting in the summer. In the winter, I’m a musher.
How much meat do your 29 sled dogs eat every day?
In the summer, they eat 12 kilograms of dry food and in the winter 15 kilograms of dry food, 20 kilograms of fresh meat and 3 kilograms of pork fat.
How much money do you spend on your hobby?
8000 to 10000 dollars per year. When I’m lucky, I earn 3000 to 4000 dollars in prize money.
What kind of races have you participated in?
Last year, I did the Yukon Quest from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska. I finished 13th in the 1600-kilometre race. Now I do mid-distance races, that is 200 to 500 kilometers.
What kind of dogs do you have?
They are Alaskan Huskies, not Siberian Huskies. Alaskan Huskies are bred for their qualities, like endurance, behaviour, food intake, speed and so on. They don’t have to look like the “traditional” Huskies.
Who looks after the dogs when you are in the bush prospecting?
My wife. She also does my accounting and she has a large garden. She doesn’t get away a lot. We hardly can go away together for more than 2 days or go on holiday together.
What does your family in Switzerland think about you being a musher?
My brother spent an entire winter. He liked it very much.
Why are there hardly any Canadian-born mushers in the Yukon Territory?
I guess because for Canadians, it is not exciting to be out with dogs in 40 below!