Photo:  State of Alaska-Travel Alaska
Photo: State of Alaska-Travel Alaska

North to Alaska for a Remarkable Race

The world's most famous trail sled-dog race marks its 50th anniversary, starting March 6.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the running of the most famous trail sled-dog race in the world: the Alaskan Iditarod, which stretches from Willow, Alaska, to Nome, on the Bering Sea. The 2022 race will be on the so-called northern route, which covers 975 miles—nearly the equivalent of going from Denver to Chicago.

“These remarkable dogs are canine athletes,” says Chas St. George, chief operating officer for the Iditarod. “We take very good care of them. The philosophy among our research scientists is run, rest, repair.”

Photo:  State of Alaska-Travel Alaska
Photo: State of Alaska-Travel Alaska

St. George says that this year’s event will be run with a salute to the mushers and their teams of a century ago, who heroically delivered diphtheria serum to save the lives of indigenous peoples during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The Iditarod is the most important athletic event in Alaska—for humans and canines. Typically, the race attracts 50 mushers and 1,000 sled dogs. As of this writing, there are 55 entrants, including 20 women. Most are experienced Alaskan mushers, but this year four of the 55 are Canadian and four are Scandinavian. 

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 5, the event will start with a festive ceremony in downtown Anchorage and a preliminary 11-mile run. A giant online fundraising auction is live now through the end of January in which race fans are bidding on being “in the bag” in their favorite mushers sled while thousands cheer on the teams as they fly through the snowy streets of Anchorage. Funds are vital for the nonprofit organization to stage and organize this traditional event.

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After the opening ceremony, the dogs and mushers will be flown 80 miles north from Willow, Alaska, where the race will begin on March 6. Teams will leave the starting gate in Willow every two minutes.

There are 21 checkpoints in the course, with overnight stops in villages along the way. The fastest anyone has run the Iditarod is eight days, three hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds. Mitch Seavey set that record in 2017.

After attending the ceremony in Anchorage, you can watch the 2022 race begin in Willow—or head for Nome, where you can see who crosses the finish line first and be among the first to learn whether Seavey’s record has been broken.

Photo:  State of Alaska-Travel Alaska
Photo: State of Alaska-Travel Alaska

Note: Some dates and other information in this article have been corrected.


Volunteer Pilots Needed

Want to participate in this historic 50th? You’re invited to join the “Iditarod Air Force.” Commercial and private pilots and airplanes are needed to ferry race officials, volunteer staff, physicians, veterinarians, equipment, clothing, food, medicine, essential cargo, sleds, and—most important—the valuable, beautiful dogs from Nome back to Anchorage. Phone the Iditarod Trail Committee at (907) 376-5155.

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