When traveling Alaska, there’s one event that you’ll always hear about, and that’s the Iditarod. You may be wondering, “why is this event so popular?” and don’t worry. If you’re not from Alaska, you may not understand how monumental this event is to all Alaskans. So, we’ve come to provide you facts and explain precisely what the Iditarod is.
What is the Iditarod?
The Iditarod is an annual sled dog race that happens once a year in Alaska. It’s the most popular event in Alaska, aside from the Alaska State Fair and the Fur Rondy Festival. The dog sled race takes place in early March and lasts over a week.
The event itself broadcasts throughout Alaska and features live coverage of the race from Anchorage to Nome. A team of 15 dogs and their mushers rush through 1,000 miles of beautiful yet unforgiving terrain. It’s truly a sight to behold and is one of the most unique and exciting dog sled races ever to exist.
Expert mushers from all over the world join together to compete in this massive race. Each musher picks their best sled dog teams and attempts to go through the harsh Alaskan wilderness all the way from Anchorage to Nome. The pathway is filled with snow, ice, and a number of various obstacles.
The Iditarod is one of the biggest events held in the Northwest and is surrounded by other events. If you’re planning on seeing a once-in-a-lifetime event, you can’t go wrong with viewing the Iditarod.
Short History of the Iditarod
If you’ve ever seen the movie Balto, then you’re probably already aware of how monumental the trail is. While the official Iditarod race wasn’t until 1973, the trail had been used as a trading path between villages. The first major attention was during 1925, where 20 mushers raced from Fairbanks to Nome to deliver life-saving serums for Diphtheria victims.
It also gained attention when settlers came in 1920 for the gold rush. Many fur traders, miners, and other professionals used the trail to travel. However, due to the invention of snowmobiles and planes, the path slowly started to lose its popularity.
That’s when Dorthy G. Page chairman of the Wasilla/Knik centennial pitched the idea to bring life back to the trail with the official Iditarod race in 1967. She then gathered supporters and convinced Joe Redington, a senior musher in the Knik area, to help fund the race. He and his wife later pitched in some money and gathered donations to clear off the trail.
Since then, a handful of mushers have joined in the race. Some of the major contestants gathered from other countries such as Canada, France, Switzerland, and even Germany. Mushers from all over the world compete every year.
When & Where is the Iditarod Held?
The official Iditarod is held annually and begins in Anchorage, Alaska. This next year’s race is set to start on Saturday March 4, 2023 in downtown Anchorage. The formal event starts at 2 pm, but you can attend other events held in the Fur Rondy Festival or walk around downtown.
The Iditarod race spans over 1,000 miles all the way to Nome, Alaska. If you want to join in and spectate the competition, you can follow along on snowmobile or by booking flights to each checkpoint. Many companies such as Sheldon Air Services also specialize in Iditarod Tours, which provide you full itineraries for traveling.
The first 11 miles of the race aren’t officially counted, and you’ll be able to view it in Anchorage, Alaska. Although, after that, you’ll find that it may be a bit more challenging to see the race in person. Many spectators follow along on TV or through live broadcasts.
If following the race in person seems a little too adventurous to you, then a good alternative is to at least travel to Nome, Alaska, via Alaska Airlines. They provide connecting flights directly from Anchorage and allow you to see the end of the race. This way, you’ll see the mushers win in person.
How Do I Attend the Iditarod?
Getting to the event requires a few bookings and reservations. If you’re traveling from out of state, we highly recommend finding Iditarod bundles online. Either that or book your flight to Anchorage Alaska through the Alaska Airlines website.
Reservations need to be made a few months in advance; otherwise, you’ll run into issues with finding places to stay at the last minute. Hotels and plane tickets for the event tend to go quickly. So, the sooner you book your reservations, the less likely you’ll run into issues.
Once you’ve got your hotel reservation and plane tickets booked, the rest of the visit should be easy to plan. If you want to enjoy more than just the Iditarod, then you can register for the Fur Rondy event. It takes place the same day as the Iditarod and has many fun and exciting events and competitions to join in.
Access to viewing the beginning of The Iditarod is free for attendees. All you’ll need to do is head downtown in Anchorage, and you’ll be greeted with free access to the festivities. The event coordinators can help give you an itinerary of events for the Iditarod, including kennel viewing, meeting mushers, and viewing the start of the race.
Alaska is home to some odd yet surprising sports that you may not see in many other places in the world. Attending the Iditarod can be a fantastic experience, especially when it gives you a chance to be included in Alaska’s native culture and festivities. Because The Iditarod is held in winter, it would also be a great time to explore the last frontier’s many winter activities. Hopefully, we’ve given you a few reasons as to why you should experience Alaska’s stunning Iditarod race.