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The Dogs of Spring

  • Najib Benouar


We know, there’s a lot going on in the wide world of sports right now. And even though you’re probably balancing your time between keeping an eye on spring training, scouting the combines and predicting early sleepers for your NCAA bracket, we’d be remiss not to alert you of arguably the year’s most intense sporting event: the Iditarod 2011.

Yes, competitive dog sledding—an age-old sport where man and beast rely upon one another to traverse 1,049 miles through the Alaska Range, over frozen rivers and across barren coastline. And it kicks off tomorrow, blizzard or shine.

Unfortunately that means it’s a little too late to hop a flight to Anchorage in time to catch the frenzy of mushers and barking teams shooting out of the gate—you’ll have to plan your Spring break, Alaska, for next year.

During the 9 to 17 day race, mushers and their team spend days out in the wilderness supplied with only what they can carry on a sled—dog-sized sleeping bags, food to be cooked over open fire and medical supplies—to brave whiteout conditions and sub-zero temperatures that can reach as low as ?100 °F. Even the spectators have to be handy with a snowmobile. In short, things get real.

Sadly, the viewing options in the lower 48 are not plentiful. You’d be lucky to find a bar showing it and you probably don’t have the Versus channel. Your best bet is subscribing to the official website’s Iditarod Insider. You’ll be able to watch the race—including the ceremonial start and daily coverage along the trail—and track the entire field as they complete each of the 27 checkpoints.

In the Yukon, it’s known as March Madness.