Iditarod mushers will still be finishing on Front Street in Nome next week, but the city of Nome will not be hosting any festivities.
Hundreds of sled dogs are running across Alaska this week as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race plays out over 1,000 miles from Willow to Nome.
With temperatures plunging deep into the negatives on Tuesday, mushers and dogs sported a coating of frost when they pulled into Nikolai, a small village about a quarter of the way into the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
“I kind of like spicy things, like chile relleno and some lasagna with a little zip in it, that sort of thing,” says Iditarod musher Linwood Fiedler.
Fifty-eight mushers have signed up for the 2020 Iditarod. Among them are six former champions, including 2019 winner Pete Kaiser. But one four-time champion is absent.
Bethel musher Pete Kaiser’s team of eight dogs crossed under the Burled Arch in Nome at 3:39 a.m. Wednesday. Kaiser is the first Iditarod champion with Yupik roots.
Race officials reduced the maximum team size from 16 to 14 for this year’s Iditarod. That means quite a bit for race strategies, speeds and the trade-offs that mushers face as they travel across Alaska.
With 52 dog teams slated to run the 1,000-mile race to Nome, it’s the smallest field of mushers starting an Iditarod in decades. But that doesn’t mean the competition is any easier.
The Iditarod restart kicks off Sunday afternoon in Willow. A notable Western Alaska musher will be absent from the pack.
Along one of the most remote stretches of the state’s road system is a wilderness lodge that’s become thoroughly popular with elite dog-mushers. The spot offers some of the best winter training for long-distance mushers anywhere in Alaska. The fact that there’s also hot food and cold beer, mushers say, just happens to be a bonus.