Nothing says "Alaskan Adventure" like Sled Dogs
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is a long-distance sled dog race through through harsh winter conditions in Alaska. It is perhaps the most famous dog-mushing event in the world and dates back to 1925, when mushers rushed to deliver a diphtheria antitoxin to Nome. You can experience a modern version of this tradition without having to train for the Iditarod itself by taking your very own dog sledding adventure in Alaska.
Tracing Its Roots
Alaska Natives pioneered the use of dogs as pack animals centuries before the Iditarod ever existed. Using three-dog teams hitched in a fan formation, the musher ran ahead of the team to guide them. After "first contact" with Alaska in 1732, the Russians added their own adaptations to mushing, which began to resemble what you see in races like the Iditarod today. This setup involved more dogs harnessed in single file behind a lead dog and handlebars on the sleds that allowed a musher to ride instead of running.
Here's how to get a taste of this history through different tours around Alaska.
Iditarod Trail Race
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
Your first introduction to the mushing tradition should begin with the Iditarod itself. While running the Iditarod race takes years of training and preparation, every year a few lucky travelers get to to participate in the race's ceremonial start. There, they can ride in mushers' sleds on a fast, 18-kilometer tour through the city of Anchorage. These passengers are known as IditaRiders, and they win their spots by bidding in an online auction that takes place in December and January. International travelers are welcome to register and bid for free, although they must pay their own way to make arrangements to get to and from Alaska.
If you'd rather watch the dog mushers than ride with them, a number of tour companies offer packages that include travel to checkpoints along the Iditarod trail, as well as a trip to the city of Nome to watch the finish. These trips often involve air travel - if you want to work with long-time locals that know this sort of flying the best, book with beloved Alaska-based flight services like Talkeetna Air Taxi or Sheldon's Flying Service.
Dog sledding in Alaska