This weird name refers to the largest sled dog race in the world. It is the name of a small abandoned village of gold miners became a ghost town in central Alaska. Born in 1973, the Iditarod was organized to commemorate the rescue of the town of Nome.
Each year since 1973, dozens of dog teams took the start of the longest and most difficult race in the world.
The first Saturday of March, for the State of Alaska (the 49th of the United States of America), the Iditarod is the event of the year, like the Tour de France. The line taken from the center of Anchorage (the "big city in Alaska" with 280 000 inhabitants) and goes to the village of Nome (village of 1,500 inhabitants located on the Bering Strait, close to the Russian Siberia). About 2000 kilometers are covered by teams of 16 dogs.
Race conditions are often harsh: up to - 50 ° C or - 60 ° C in some years, with many blizzard storms.
The "Iditarod" trail is a historical monument for Alaska. Originally, it was used by the dog post to bring the letter to the gold diggers and eskimo villages on the coast. On the way back, these same teams brought gold discovered to the cities of Anchorage (south) and Fairbanks (center of the country). The word "Iditarod" means "lost place" in Indian language.
When they leave Anchorage, the teams follow the trail with a steady pace and implement their strategy. They must stop at the 25 mandatory checkpoints. These stops allow veterinarians of the race to check the health of dogs and judges to control if rules are well respected. Some teams take a few hours of rest at each checkpoint. Others prefer to load their bags of food and equipment and rest only on the edge of the trail because they do not want to reveal their race strategy!
The regulation plans a mandatory stop of 24 hours. The mushers can take this rest on the "check point" of their choice. Also, they must stop during 8 hours at the Eskimo village of "White Mountain", less than 200 kilometers from the finish line.
The famous mushers ‘names associated with this race are:
- Joe Redington (the founder, who has never won);
- Rick Swenson (5 time winner, during his last victory, in a blizzard, he walked more than 100 kilometers in front of his dogs to do not lose the trail)
- Susan Butcher (a woman who won 4 times)
- Libbye Riddles (model and writer, she was the first woman to win the race in 1985)
- Dick Mackey (in 1978, he won the Iditarod with ... a second ahead of Rick Swenson!)
- Martin Buser (who has the record in 8 days 22 hours and 46 minutes ... more than 210 kilometers per day with his dogs!), Four-time winner
- Jeff King, four-time winner
- Robert Sorlie (winner in 2003 and 2005, it is Norwegian, which irritates Alaskans)
- Lance Mackey (son of Dick): winner in 2007, 2008, 2009
The Iditarod: an extraordinary adventure
An adventure in the spectacular landscape of Alaska, with the cold, snow, blizzards and dogs as companions.
Every year, hundreds of volunteers, forty veterinarians from all around the world, live for 3 weeks on the control points. They allow the race to exist and share with the mushers passion and love for these wonderful dogs. There are no roads in these remote places in Alaska, dog tired, cared for by veterinarians, joined Nome or Anchorage, by small aircraft with skis, driven by other volunteers!
Yukon Quest: 1,000 miles on two mythical territories
This is in the "Bull's Eye Saloon," in Fairbanks, in central Alaska that the Yukon Quest was born. A conversation between four mushers who dream of a race on the Yukon, rallying Fairbanks (Alaska) to Whitehorse (Canada) or the opposite! A myth was born and Sonny Lindner won the first edition of the race the following winter, in February 1984! Once again in the world of sled dog and adventure, dreamers have won the skeptics.
This race has several particularities:
the cities of departure and arrival alternate each year. Thus, regulars run the trail in both ways, to provide no Canadian or American 'hegemony'.
Distances between checkpoints are very long (often over 200 km). Teams are required to carry more equipment and food, and camp in the middle of nowhere by freezing temperatures;
It is a real communication tool between two neighboring states, but of different nationalities, Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
A traditional race
The "Quest" is a race where the ancestral dog sledding is preserved. It is less focused on performance and professionalism than the Iditarod. Some winners of the Quest as John Schandelmeier and Charlie Boulding, live in log cabins with their dogs. When John Schandelmeier participates to La Grande Odyssée in 2005, he confessed "I discovered the world"!
Près de 500 volontaires œuvrent sur une compétition qui regroupe chaque année une quarantaine d’attelages venant du monde entier, les chiens demeurant sous le contrôle permanent et efficace d’une équipe forte d’une vingtaine de vétérinaires.
Nearly 500 volunteers work on a competition with 40 dogs teams coming from all around the world. The dogs are supervised by a team of 20 veterinarians.
The Finnmarkslopet: on the way to the North Cape
Born in 1981, the Finnmarkslopet is the longest running European long-distance run on the same format as the Iditarod. 1,000 kilometers are traveled by teams of 14 dogs, almost all Scandinavian (the race takes place on Norwegian territory from the town of Alta). The Finnmarkslopet is the biggest “north” race of the world. Race conditions are harsh with strong winds on a boreal taiga and no protection to the teams.
There is also a shorter version, the Finnmarkslopet 500 which is run with teams of eight dogs.
More and more teams from "South"Europe come each year to run the Finnmarkslopet, but it is still ignored by the major U.S. or Canadian mushers.
This is the other Norwegian big race of long-distance. It is runs at the heart of the country. This is the sled race which attracts the most participants in the world. In 2009, 132 teams started from Roros’ town. Like The Finnamrkslopet, there are two classes. The Femund 600 covers 600 kilometers and is open to teams of 12 dogs, while the Femund 400 is 400 km long and is open to teams of eight dogs.
The Femundløpet is known for its large quantity of snow and a soft track. This race requires motivated dogs.
Robert Sorlie, Mr Femundløpet, already won six times the race. His last victory was in 2009, fifteen days after taking second position in La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc.
This race referred to a famous Norwegian explorer who reached the South Pole. The start is given in mass-start on the frozen lake Storsjön in Ostersund (Sweden) and finished in Roros (Norway).
This 400 km long race is open to teams of 12 dogs. It requires mushers’ effective faculties of adaptation to the climate. Conditions can be very difficult in the Scandinavian mountains.