IN THE PAST, ALASKANS NEEDED TO USE DOGS AND SLEDS TO TRAVEL. NOW THEY DON’T. BUT IN 1973, A DOGSLED RACE BEGAN, THE IDITAROD.
The Iditarod is a really hard race. The dogsled teams have to travel about 1,600 kilometers, from Anchorage to Nome. And the weather can be very bad, with freezing temperatures of -20C and dangerous snow storms.
Each team has one person, called a musher, and 12 to 20 dogs. The mushers have to think about many things. When is the best time to travel, at night or in the day? What clothes are best to wear? What food is best for the dogs? When is the best time to put the boots on the dogs? If the dogs don’t wear boots, the ice can cut their feet.
It usually takes 10 to 15 days to finish the Iditarod. The team that gets to Nome first wins! John Baker did the Iditarod in the fastest time in 2011 — 8 days and 19 hours. Carl Huntington did the slowest time in 1974 — 20 days and 15 hours.
The Iditarod is very popular. It’s an important part of Alaskan life. Before the race starts, there’s a big party in Anchorage. Then, thousands of people watch the race. Many more people follow it for days on TV, the Internet, or in newspapers.
In the first Iditarod, there were 34 teams. Now every year in March about 55 teams do the race. Why is it so popular? Maybe because the winner gets a lot of money — about $50,000!