The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, usually just called the “Iditarod”, is an annual sled dog race in Alaska, where mushers and teams of typically 16 dogs cover 1,049 miles (1,853 km) in eight to fifteen days from Willow to Nome. The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams, evolving into the highly competitive race it is today.
Frequently teams race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, and sub-zero weather and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach -100 °F (-75 °C). A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow, a city in the south central region of the state. The restart was originally in Wasilla, but due to climate change the restart was permanently moved to Willow in 2008. The trail proceeds from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The teams cross a harsh but starkly beautiful landscape under the canopy of the Northern Lights, through tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages, and small Athabaskan and Inuit settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state, and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
The race is the most popular sporting event in Alaska, and the top mushers and their teams of dogs are local celebrities; this popularity is credited with the resurgence of recreational mushing in the state since the 1970s. While the yearly field of more than 96 mushers and about a thousand dogs is still largely Alaskan, competitors from fourteen countries have completed the event including the Swiss Martin Buser, who became the first international winner in 1992. (stolen from Wikipedia)
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