Iditarod dogs pack for traditional Alaska race

Iditarod dogs pack for traditional Alaska race

Iditarod dogs pack for traditional Alaska race

Fans, dogs and mushers returned in droves to downtown Anchorage in the midst of a snowstorm for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The ceremonial start was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This year, fans attending the 50th running of the race were limited in their interactions with participants but still were able to watch from behind fences as mushers left the starting line two minutes apart.

Mushers took a leisurely jaunt through Alaska’s largest city, waving at fans that lined downtown streets. The competitive race for mushers and their dogs starts Sunday in Willow, about 120 kilometers north of Anchorage, with the winner expected about nine days later in Nome.

Mushers had to show proof of vaccination to race this year, and they will isolate at checkpoints so they don’t bring COVID-19 to the rural, largely Alaska Native villages along the nearly 1,609-kilometer route to Nome.

Instead, lumber was delivered, and an elaborate tent camp was being built, including new outhouses, race marshal Mark Nordman said.

There are 49 mushers in this year’s race, including defending champion Dallas Seavey, who is seeking to make history as the first musher to win six Iditarod titles.

He’s tied with Rick Swenson with five victories apiece. Win or lose, the 35-year-old indicated this is probably his last race for a while as he wishes to spend more time with his pre-teen daughter.

Also in the race are two four-time winners, Martin Buser and Jeff King.