The Iditarod Dog Race is the most popular sporting event in Alaska!
To Alaskans, dog sledding is a huge deal and the teams are basically celebrities around town. Especially the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, nicknamed “The Last Great Race.”
The Iditarod Trail was used for gold miners at its peak in 1880’s to the 1920’s. Back then, dog sledding was also the prime form of communication and transportation in Alaska during October through June as ice covered the land. Dog sleds transported goods and supplies like firewood, mail, mining equipment, and food. Dog sledding is now a popular sport rather than a necessity due to the invention of snow mobiles in the 1960’s.
This race starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome with a team of 16 dogs and 50 mushers that enter the competition. There are two routes; a Northern route, run on even numbered years, and a Southern route, run on odd numbered years. The Northern route is about 975 miles and the Southern is about 998 miles. There is about 26 check points in each route where mushers must check in. Bags of supplies are provided at these checkpoints containing things like booties for the dogs and food.
Beginning the first Saturday in March on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, the race begins. Five blocks of street are blocked off and a ribbon cutting ceremony takes place. Mushers start departing at 10 am in 2 minute increments, determined by drawing numbers at a banquet 2 days prior. However, this timing does not count towards the official time and is more for show. The official time starts the following day on Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Qualifications and Costs
The Iditarod 2019 entrance fee is $4,000 per musher, not including the flights for the mushers and the dogs. All dogs must be checked before the race which cost $350. Lodging, dog food, dog booties, sled maintenance, equipment and gear can easily total over $21,000! If you do not already have enough dogs to race, leasing one is also costly, at about $$15,000-$20,000. Mushers must participate in 3 smaller races in order to qualify. The winnings in 2018 was well worth it at $250,000 and to be determined in 2019.