People often ask us if we have ever been in a dogsled race. Amy and I have been working with sled dogs for many years, but we have never been in a dogsled race. The Canadian Inuit Dogs that we work with are too slow for racing. They can pull a lot of weight and handle extreme cold and harsh conditions, but they are not built for speed. Most dogsled racers use Alaskan Huskies, which are much faster. Right now there are hundreds of dogs and dozens of mushers competing in the most famous dogsled race in the world, the Iditarod. The Iditarod is almost 1,000 miles long and takes most teams between 10 and 14 days to complete.
You can follow the Iditarod on the internet. They even have a “teacher on the trail” that helps classrooms all over the world follow the race. Right now Aliy Zirkle is in the lead and the top teams are about 3/4th of the way through the race. The Iditarod goes from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The teams race up and over mountain passes, through the forest, down rivers and over the sea ice and tundra. It is a very challenging race.
The race follows the route to Nome the mushers historically followed to haul supplies across Alaska. The race also commemorates the part that sled dogs played in the settlement of Alaska. The mushers travel from checkpoint to checkpoint much as the freight mushers did in the past. However some modern dog drivers like Doug Swingley, Martin Buser, Jeff King, Susan Butcher and Rick Swenson move much faster than their old-time counterparts, making the trip to Nome in under ten days. Historically the freight mushers used larger dogs that were more like the Canadian Inuit Dogs that Amy and I work with. They are slower than the racing dogs, but they are very strong and can pull a lot of supplies.
Amy and I have really enjoyed following the Iditarod. It is amazing how fast the dogs and their mushers can travel across 1,000 miles of Alaskan wilderness. We hope that you will follow the Iditarod as well. Would you like to race in the Iditarod someday?
If you would like to run the Iditarod, what are some of the things that you would need to do to train and prepare for the race?
What do you think would be the hardest part of running the Iditarod?
What do you think would be the most fun, or rewarding part of running the Iditarod?
Iditarod website: http://iditarod.com/
Iditarod education portal for teachers: http://iditarod.com/teachers/
Iditarod activities for students: http://iditarod.com/teachers/students/