Despite warmer conditions causing a starting location change, the 2015 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will officially start today in Fairbanks, Alaska for only the second time in the race's 42 year history.
"The Last Great Race on Earth" moved the traditional starting location from Willow to Fairbanks due to warmer temperatures causing minimal snow cover on rugged parts of the trail, making it particularly unsafe for the dogs and mushers.
No other contest in history tests the mettle of man and mutt like the famed Iditarod. The annual competition will pit 79 teams of the most brazened thrill seekers on a 968-mile trek from Fairbanks to Nome — a sled ride that toes a fine, frozen line between death and greatness. Why? Glory.
When asked if the warmer conditions and move to Fairbanks would be a challenge, 2014 Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey stated, "It really doesn't matter much. Mushers tend to obsess over the conditions, 'It's going to be too warm, or too cold, or it may blow.' All those things happen in almost every race. In my mind, it's all about the opportunity and adapting to the change. Fact is, you run every race with all those possibilities because they almost always happen."
The men and women who volunteer to endure white-out blizzards, unforgiving terrain, gale fore winds and wind chills as low as -100 degrees Fahrenheit for the distance of 40 marathons, over an average of two weeks, are as special a breed as the 16 dogs pulling their sleds. The teamwork, stamina and grit required of these partners and their bond makes the Iditarod one of the most exciting spectacles on earth to watch. This year, you'll be able to tag along from the warmth of your living room.
The Official Network of the Iditarod, The Sportsman Channel, will provide viewers with exclusive in-depth program coverage of the indefatigable men and w0men, their dogs and the punishing but spectacular Alaskan frontier. Join in on the action and help celebrate this renowned American tradition of our men and women (and dogs) of the outdoors.
Don't miss the excitement and drama beginning with Iditarod Unleashed, premiering Thursday, March 19 on The Sportsman Channel, followed by the 2015 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on April 2.
The original sled dogs of the Iditarod were malamutes, but beginning in the early 20th century, Siberian huskies became the most popular breed.
All photos by Mike Kenney
All dogs at the race wear protective booties over their feet to keep them from being scraped up and to keep balls of ice from collecting around the footpad.
Each team is composed of twelve to sixteen dogs and at least six dogs must be in harness when crossing the finish line in Nome.
Starting in 1984, all dogs are examined by veterinarians/nurses before the start of the race, who check teeth, eyes, tonsils, heart, lungs, joints, and genitals; they look for signs of illegal drugs, improperly healed wounds, and pregnancy.
The dogs in the race are well-conditioned athletes who burn about 5,000 calories a day, compares to roughly 3.5 times that of a human Tour de France cyclist.
The Iditarod Headquarters are located in Wasilla, Alaska that houses a museum and offers free tours.
The Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race is a 148- to 158-mile (222 km) sled dog race for mushers between the ages of 14 through 17 that is held outside of Anchorage.
Weathering the Trail
Just like the original race, the Jr. Iditarod trail runs through harsh tundra, spruce forests, over hills, through mountain passes, and across rivers.
The mushers in the Jr. Iditarod frequently train their own dogs for the event. Many of the competitors go on to participate in the full race.
Mushers From Around the World
While most of the mushers in the Iditarod are Alaskan, competitors from 14 different countries have participated in the event.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race runs 9-15 days or more and begins in Anchorage, Alaksa and finishes in Nome.
While mushers experience some of the harshest parts of the Alaskan landscape, they also get to see some of the most beautiful, like the Northern Lights.
Throughout the race, teams experience blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach ˆ’100 °F.
The Iditarod is held to commemorate the 1925 run, let by the dog Balto, that delivered diptheria medicine to the citizens of Nome.