A group of enthusiasts rejuvenated the sport of sled dog racing by organizing the 1,100-mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome. The race re-traces a 1925 run of serum to Nome to combat an outbreak of diptheria.
Visitors can catch the 40th running of the Iditarod on the first Saturday in March in Anchorage, or at the official start in Willow the following day. Several tour companies provide airplane transportation to lodges and checkpoints along the race route where you can follow the action and watch the mushers arrive and care for their dogs. The trips between checkpoints offer an aerial view of the competition, along with Alaska’s stunning scenery and wildlife.
The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race stretches 1,000 miles between Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon, and Fairbanks, Alaska. The route runs across frozen rivers, climbs four mountain ranges and winds through remote Alaska. While not as high profile as the Iditarod, mushing purists claim the Yukon Quest is the “real” long-distance test, with longer distances between checkpoints and a more remote course. All of Alaska’s sled dog races depend on volunteer labor, so if you’re not one to sit along the sidelines, sign up for a volunteer job.
If all this talk about sled dog racing makes you want to feel the wind on your face – whether it’s a quick ride in a sled or a weeklong adventure – there are plenty of opportunities. Mushing tours are available all around the state. Many mushers will show off their dog teams and give you the chance to learn about racing, tour kennels, cuddle puppies and even let you hop on the rails to see if you’ve got the mettle. Many mushing operations also have summer tours, including popular helicopter-based tours landing on glaciers in Girdwood, Seward, Juneau and Skagway. Other tours operate with wheeled summer sleds so you can still get the sensation of riding, even though there’s no snow.
For more information about dog mushing tours and Alaska’s major races, click here.