Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Where to watch Iditarod - Online

Alaskan Husky
Champion Sled Dog - Feb 25, 2019.
So maybe you can't make it to Alaska to see the Last Great Race, or you've come up for the start but now you're back home and want to keep tabs. Thanks to the invention of the Internet, it's a whole lot easier to follow the race than it was 20 years ago (or more). Still, you may not know exactly where to look, so here's a basic rundown on sites that will be sure to give you the best information.

Official Links

This should come as no surprise, but the best and most accurate information can be found from The Official website keeps the standings as current as possible (logistics of some of the checkpoints can cause delays), as well as offer ways to follow the race "in real time" or close to it. The biggest downfall is in order to truly follow along with the race you have to be able and willing to pay for a subscription to the Iditarod Insider. There are several levels of subscription.

Free - If all you want is to follow your favorite musher, you can sign up for free and receive updates on their race via email. You will only get official standings, so you won't get info while they travel in between checkpoints, no interviews, etc. Basically you get to experience the Iditarod the way fans did before Insider existed. They DO offer a few videos (with commercial breaks) and articles, but you're getting the bare minimum with this option.

Video Insider - For just $19.95 you get all of the videos commercial free, some of which are live feeds, and you can get up to five mushers updates in your email. Videos include interviews with different mushers on the trail, trail updates from the commentary team (Bruce and Greg do a very good job of explaining the race), as well as some beautiful montages of the scenery and dogs.

GPS Insider - If you follow other races, you'll know how important the GPS trackers are. Unless you like watching the race like we did in the 80s and 90s, waiting for new updates of official times in and out of checkpoints as your only guide, then this may be the option for you. Watching teams travel towards Nome becomes addicting, and frustrating, and exciting, and nerve-wracking. Like the video insider, the cost is $19.95, you also get to choose up to five mushers to follow, and you have access to a few videos with commercials.

Ultimate Insider - For a small savings, you can get both the GPS and Video for $33.95. If you can swing the cost, this is most definitely your best option. If you want to keep up-to-date with the race, it's a must. If you're into analyzing, it's a must. If you like being completely obsessed with mushing, it's a must. Both the video and ultimate insider get the live feeds of the start and the finish. Each finish in Nome goes live, though only the champion gets the bells and whistles. The rest are done with a webcam on the burled arch. Ultimate Insider also allows you to follow up to five mushers with email updates.

News Media

KTVA - The official TV Station for the Iditarod is the Anchorage CBS Affiliate. Being owned by Iditarod Sponsor GCI has its perks. They have updates every few hours throughout the race, as well as musher profiles and interviews. They have a dedicated page on their site for all of their Iditarod coverage.

KTUU - Before GCI bought KTVA, KTUU was the official channel for all things Iditarod. Their coverage is pretty stellar even without the title. They live feed the finish, though not at the same angle as the Insider/KTVA feed. Still, if you can't afford the Insider, this is the next best thing. Honestly, I prefer KTUU to the official channel. Not for any real reason other than I feel they have more coverage, plus I like more of their reporters. I'm biased, and proud. They, too, have a dedicated Iditarod section on their website.

Anchorage Daily News - The largest newspaper in the state is also the largest source of print media surrounding the race. They now require a subscription to be able to read their articles (I believe you get five free reads before they lock it down), and at $1.99 an article it can add up. However, they are advertising a Rondy & Iditarod special for $11.99. They, like the others, have a dedicated page for Iditarod (and Rondy).

Iditapod - Alaska Public Media is in their third season of hosting a podcast all about Iditarod. A lot of work goes into not only the podcast but their social media coverage of the race. They have a dedicated page for all things Iditarod, and you can find the podcast on iTunes (FREE!).

Dog Works Radio - Another fantastic podcast by musher Robert Forto and Iditarod documentarian Alex Stein. During Iditarod they have a podcast dedicated to the race.

KNOM Radio - On the other side of the state where teams finish is this awesome radio station that covers the race as well. They typically broadcast the finish of the winner, as well as do a lot of indepth interviews of mushers on the last leg of the race.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - While they focus more on coverage of the Yukon Quest, the News-Miner is another excellent resource, especially in years when the Iditarod has to take drastic measures and prepare for a restart that far North. They have a dedicated page for Iditarod coverage, but it's a little lighter than the other pages linked here.

Social Media

Iditarod Trail Committee - Their facebook page does have a lot of posts throughout the race, but not up to date action. More along the lines of official updates and posts. There are, however, a lot of fan discussions within the comments. This is their official page for the race, and the organization.

Iditarod EDU - For the Iditarod Educators program, this facebook page keeps teachers up to date on all the happenings with the Teacher on the Trail as well as lesson plan ideas, etc. They give some pretty fun insight into the race as well as just neat activities that don't just have to be used in a classroom. This is another official social media page of Iditarod.

Alaska Mushing News - Run by Helen Hegener a local race nut and historian/author, this facebook group is a great source to run to to find links to all articles relating to any and all mushing topics - which this time of year is basically Iditarod.

Seavey's Ididaride Sled Dog Tours - Yes, this is a musher specific facebook page, however it is run by Danny Seavey and he blogs not just about Mitch's race but about the race in general - mainly about front runners. Still, if you want someone to explain and analyze what you're watching on videos or via GPS, this is a great place for info. Like the rest of us, Danny is a huge fan of this sport and especially the Iditarod.

@ADNIditarod - If you're a fan of twitter, Alaska Daily News has a twitter account dedicated to the following of the race. This will keep you up to date on any big news on the trail as well as links to all of their Iditarod specific articles. Photos and videos show up here often as well.

@IditarodKTVA - As the official news channel, KTVA also follows the race via twitter. Video, photos, and article links.

@DannySeavey - Like the Seavey facebook page, I expect Danny to be able to tweet out a few tidbits every now and then. He's recently started replying to fans. We'll see if it sticks, he can be wordy and twitter really doesn't encourage that. But ask questions, he'll probably answer (just don't always expect promptness, he's got a few businesses to run).

@coldfootfilms - Alex Stein directed a documentary on Iditarod entitled MUSH a few years ago, and is one of the hosts of Dog Works Radio's Iditarod coverage. Stein is an active voice on twitter about mushing and Iditarod.

#MusherTwitter - If you want to see a lot of great mushers and mushing enthusiasts come together and share information, follow the MusherTwitter tag on, well, twitter. Several Iditarod mushers chime in throughout the year giving updates on their team as well as the sport at large. (Stay out of the Iditarod tag, a lot of antis and haters spreading really incorrect info on there. I warned you.)

Sebastian Schnuelle - Another great musher turned blogger in retirement, Schnuelle has been somewhat silent on the race in the last couple of years due to his being a race judge, however he does share photos of his time on the trail on his facebook page.

@ZachHughesAK - Part of the Iditapod team, Zach is very active on twitter and should offer some great info on the race.

@kcgrove - The other part of the Iditapod team. Casey is another fantastic reporter who should offer some humor as well as insight into the race on twitter.

@QuinceMountain - Husband to an Iditarod musher, Q is very active on twitter, he is also a trail correspondent (as of 2019) for the Iditapod.

Jeff Schultz Photography - The official facebook page for the Iditarod's official photographer. His photos are incredible. He is the reason I am a sled dog photographer.

Kale Casey Live - Kale works for a company that sponsors a lot of races and dog team, and live feeds from most races. He typically does a lot of fun interviews in Nome. All feeds are found on his facebook page.

This is just a sampling as it changes all the time who is covering the race, but these are safe bets every year. Shameless plug - you can also follow me on twitter for updates on the race, photos, and I retweet a lot of the links listed in this blog. I'm sure I've missed someone, but my eyes are crossing so I will close for now. Comment below if you think a link should be added.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Iditarod 47 - Top Ten

As the clock winds down ever closer to the start of the 47th Iditarod, thoughts are turning to who will become the next champion. The pool is growing larger for potential champions. Knowing who is going to take the top prize is more difficult every year. In fact, this year's top ten is really a top fifteen since I just can't seem to narrow it down further. So, yeah, I have a few honorable mentions.

Top Ten

Aliy Zirkle - SPKennel's top dawg, Zirkle is the 2000 Yukon Quest Champion who has been so close to the Iditarod Championship she could taste it. Aliy is everyone's favorite. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone - fan or competitor - who could say a bad thing about her. But enough about why we all love Aliy. She is a true dog woman. Her dogs just ran the Quest with her husband Allen Moore and gave it a good go, but tapered off during the final push. Aliy's team struggled last year during the Iditarod when a storm blew in early on in the race and she finished out of the top ten. That being said, I'm not ready to count Aliy out yet, and last year's finish might be the push she needs to come back "with a vengence".

Jeff King - King is a four-time Iditarod champion who is still gunning for another. While his fellow four-timers seem to have conceded that the race has changed since they won their races, Jeff hasn't given up on the illusive number five. King was just hours away from number five in 2014 when a storm blew him off course and he was forced to scratch. Jeff has proven that he is willing to take chances, but not ones that will do wrong by his dogs. He's an old hat at this race, and that experience comes in handy. His dogs come from a long line of champions. Everything is there to come together, the problem is that a lot of other teams have grown up studying "the winningest musher" and now he has more teams threatening to dethrone him. I was *this close* in bumping him down, but you can't count out Mr. The King.

Jessie Holmes - Many counted out the rookie last year, chalking him up as nothing more than a reality TV star, but Holmes came to play. He not only won Rookie of the Year, he broke the top ten. Jessie's got speed on his side, and he has the right kind of ego to get him to the finish in first. He definitely believes in himself and his dogs. But ego is most definitely a two edged sword and it can cloud judgement. Push too soon and the dogs will slow on the coast. They did incredibly well last year, but a storm helped a lot keeping many of the veteran teams at a slower pace. It will be interesting to see what Jessie Holmes and team will be capable of this year.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom - Can Joar repeat? Repeat wins are difficult. Even if every dog is the same, the elements and trail change from hour to hour and there is no guarantee that you will have even close to the race you had last time. Joar quickly climbed the standings in his Iditarod career, now he has to maintain. That's hard to do in any sport, and especially in dog mushing. Joar had the perfect storm blow in to help him advance to the number one spot. I don't expect Nicolas Petit to lose the trail on the Norton Sound again. If Joar wants to become a repeat champion he is going to have to stay within striking distance and have enough gas in the tank to jump out ahead when the time is right.

Matt Hall - It's kind of mind boggling that this will only be Matt's third Iditarod, but the 2017 Yukon Quest Champion has made sure to keep his name in the running for top ten. He nearly missed out on a top ten finish last year, and was on his way to a strong lead in this year's Yukon Quest when he was sidelined (by choice) waiting for a diagnosis of one of his dogs (doggie cancer sucks). Even with having to make up quite a bit of time, Hall managed a very respectable fifth place finish on one of the most difficult Quests in memory. It is completely within reason to see Matt make the top ten, and I wager he could very easily challenge for first.

Mitch Seavey - "Da Man" or "Old Man" Seavey, depending on who you talk to, has found the fountain of youth and has kept many of the young guns at bay in the last 7 years. The Three-Time Iditarod champion has proven time and again that you can teach the... once around the block... guy new tricks. Master strategist, dog man, and just all around expert - you just don't want to count him out. But, like Zirkle, Mitch can sometimes be the "weak link", but more recently he has worked to improve his athletic ability to be able to do more behind the sled than we're used to seeing. I don't expect him to pull out the tricks from Dallas's books and run sprints up mountains with the team, but don't be shocked to see Mitch not only keeping up but surpassing known fast teams. It's all about "building the monster" as they say.

Nic Petit
Nicolas Petit - Someone is starting to gain somewhat of a comical reputation as one who is directionally challenged. Last year Petit was solidly in the lead when he took a wrong turn during the run across the Norton Sound, he lost not only valuable time, but the extra work the dogs ended up dealing with as they backtracked slowed his team. The misstep cost him the win. He's had a few misdirections in several of his mid-distance races this season. Whether it's a loss of focus, or flat out being asleep, or something else - who knows. But it doesn't take much guessing to know that Nicolas is going to run this Iditarod like he has something to prove. Expect Nicolas to get up in front early and fight hard to stay there.

Peter Kaiser - The four-time Kusko 300 champion missed out on a fifth title this season, but not for lack of trying. Kaiser managed a fifth place finish in last year's Iditarod which threw many curveballs at the teams crossing the thousand miles of Alaskan wilderness. One of the strongest Western Alaska teams, Kaiser has steadily climbed the rankings and is poised to do well yet again. It's not a matter of if Kaiser will be an Iditarod champion, it's when. His dogs have it in them, and so does he, but just like all the other champions that have gone before, everything has to go very right for them, and other teams have to have something go wrong. Kaiser has the tools.

Travis Beals - This is another pick that I went back and forth on. When Travis is on, he is very very good, other times he's middle of the pack. Beals had a decent season again this year, and looks to have a solid team. Travis did very well in last year's snowmageddon Iditarod, so one would expect it to go well again this year. He is determined, and it would not be a surprise to see him crack the top ten again.

Wade Marrs - After last year's disappointing race where he scratched on the coast, Marrs is back and should be a contender. The face of Stump Jumpin' Kennel and the former ITC Musher Board Representative, Wade is one of the most exciting "up and coming" (though after this many years, is he really still up and coming?) teams. Marrs trained with some of the best in the sport while in the junior ranks, and he's shown to be a pretty quick study when it comes to racing against some of the best in Iditarod. While using his own methods, Marrs has picked up a few tricks watching how Dallas Seavey races Iditarod, and it's no wonder his schedule seems to match up with those of the Seavey teams. It will be interesting to see how a healthy Wade matches up with the pack this go around.

Dark Horses

I couldn't stop at 10. Honestly there's at least 15 teams that could easily be top ten depending on circumstance. This is a highly competitive field and it's exciting to see. So I have been stressing all week trying to justify my picks, and I can't so I'm adding a few more who could easily make it into the top ten.

Aaron Burmeister - No stranger to Iditarod, Burmeister has knocked on the door to the title for many years now. His short-lived retirement(s) proved that he isn't quite able to give up the dogs or the lifestyle. For some, the race just gets inside them and they have to continue on. Each time Burmeister comes back, he reminds everyone just how good he is. Last year he came 12th, in 2015 he was third. He has a very good chance of breaking into the top ten again. He just has to play his cards right.

Jessie Royer - I really wanted to put her in my top ten, but something tells me this is not her year. Jessie ran the Yukon Quest earlier this month, and she had a rough go of it. Not sure if it was just the extreme negative temperatures (likely) or if this is a team rebuilding year. So I have her as a dark horse this year. I'd love for her to wreck my top ten and make a high placement (or a win), but I'm going to hedge my bets on her.

Matthew Failor - Mattew just beat out Pete Kaiser last month in the Kuskokwim 300, a race Pete pretty much owns. A former handler for four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser before striking out on his own with his own team of dogs. It hasn't taken him long to become a true contender. The Kusko is just the first stepping stone on the way to the top. His race this year will be fun to watch as it plays out.

Ramey Smyth - One of the best finishers in the business, you don't want to ever have a Smyth team running up behind you. Ramey has come close to beating out champions in the past, and is always knocking on the door. In so many ways it feels like he should have "Iditarod Champion" next to his name, but he hasn't quite found the magic for it to happen. Still, don't be surprised to see his name creep up the standings, especially once his team hits the coast. Then all bets are off.

Thoughts on who might take the prize this year? Who do you have in your top ten? Comment below!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Iditarod 47: Rookie Round-Up

Iditarod Rookie, Blair Braverman, at the Tustumena 200 Vet Check.
Soldotna Sports Complex, January 25, 2019.
We're less than two weeks away from the 47th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. 52 teams are signed up (55 if you count the three who have since withdrawn), with ten rookies. Some names are familiar because while they may be new to Iditarod, they are certainly not new to the sport. Others are "social media sensations". As always, there are the tried and true rookies who are handling a second string puppy team for the top kennels. Four of the ten rookies are female. Six teams are from Alaska. Four countries (USA, Norway, Canada, and France) are represented. All have different levels of experience and vastly different backgrounds.

So who are the class of 2019's rookies looking to acquire the finishers belt buckle and an invite into the Iditarod Finisher's Club?

Alison Lifka - Like many rookies, Alison grew up fascinated by the Iditarod Trail and the stories of its heroes. She followed her dreams and moved up to Alaska to begin handling for different mushers. She now calls Willow, Alaska home. Her kennel's name is Bear Necessities. Alison lists photography as one of her passions, and she is definitely talented looking at some of her work she has shared. She will be running some of Iditarod Veteran Linwood Fielder's young dogs. Follow along via her Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Blair Braverman - Hey "Ugly Dogs" (yeah, that's right, I see you!). Seriously, though, if you're reading my blog chances are you know who this rookie is. Braverman is an accomplished writer, who has grown quite the following thanks to her use of Social Media as well as publishing her memoir Welcome to the G--D--- Ice Cube. Blair moved up to Alaska to train for the Iditarod with her dogs and her husband Quince last fall, and has documented her entire journey to the starting line. "Team BraverMountan" (the combination of her name with her husband's) and their fans lovingly known as "Ugly Dogs" (there's a story that goes with that) have brought a lot of excitement to this year's race and it's been noticed by a lot of key players. If you want to follow along your best bet is Blair's Twitter and Quince's Twitter, she also has a Website.

Ed Hopkins - Mushing fans were all scratching their heads when Ed's name had "rookie" next to it after signing up, but it's true. Hopkins is not a veteran of the Iditarod, though he is a veteran of "that other thousand mile race" (the Yukon Quest). Hopkins is no stranger to the race, however, as his wife Michelle Phillips has run the race and done quite well for a number of years. Originally, Michelle had signed up to run the 2019 Iditarod, but she swapped with Ed. Ed and Michelle's Tagish Lake Kennel will no doubt be in the running for Top Rookie this year. You can find out more about their kennel on Facebook, and their Website.

Jessica Klejka - Jessica's life has revolved around dogs. She grew up mushing with her family in Bethel and was inspired by the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race to get into mushing. This Iditarod Rookie is no stranger to the Iditarod trail, as a teen she won the Junior Iditarod (which runs a portion of the Iditarod race a week prior to the 1,000 mile race). Oh, and she beat some familiar names that year, like Iditarod Veteran Wade Marrs. Just sayin'. She has a Website, and you can follow her on Facebook.

Martin Apayaug Reitan - Martin has had a busy winter. He just completed his first Yukon Quest where he won Rookie of the Year (meaning he was the first rookie across the finish line). Reitan's older brother and father have both run the Iditarod in years past, so it's little brother's turn. Raised in both Norway and Alaska, Martin is no rookie when it comes to dog care. He's been mushing most -if not all of his life. When the family relocated permanently to Alaska, they brought the racing team with them. Martin has a bright personality, and is no slouch when it comes to racing. He is another team that is definitely in the running for Rookie of the Year in this race. There's really not a good way to follow him online as his website is for the family's polar bear watching tours.

Niklas Wikstrand - Originally from Norway - where he learned to mush IN SCHOOL! how cool is that?! Alaska we're slackin'! - Niklas will be running a team out of Pete Kaiser's kennel. The 28 year old rookie moved to Alaska to work for Kaiser Racing in 2016 thinking it would be a one year gig. Three years later he's heading to Nome. When not in Alaska he works as a tour guide in Norway. He shared the Kaiser Racing link as his Website, they also have a Facebook page.

Richie Beattie - This two time Quest finisher (and Rookie of the Year in 2006) is living his dream of running Iditarod this year. Running a kennel of what appears to be twenty-four dogs with his wife in Two Rivers, Alaska, the Wild Thingz Kennel has done well to prepare for the Last Great Race. Beattie should do well with his race, and it will be interesting to see how he does. He has a Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Ryan Santiago - Wondering who gets the honors to run the puppy team out of Mitch Seavey's kennel, look no further. Santiago was a late entry into this years race as he finished up his qualifiers. He attended the rookie meeting earlier this season before signing up, so he's jumped through all of the hoops. Ryan won't be in the running for Rookie of the Year as typically the musher running the puppy team is running a not so competitive schedule, but look for him to have a solid run to Nome. No doubt a few updates on his run will be on the Ididaride Facebook page.

Sebastian Dos Santos Borges - Another wordsmith, Borges is another one of those small kennel teams that focuses on the relationship over the overall placement. Borges started his kennel using "shelter dogs" and says some are in his racing team. Sebastian is originally from France, but resides now in Alaska. He completed the 2017 Yukon Quest, and has run several mid distance races placing respectably.

Victoria Hardwick - Another dental professional turned dog musher, Victoria moved from Washington State to Bush Alaska five to six years ago. Another musher who dreamed from childhood of mushing, she has worked hard to be able to run the Iditarod. Another one of these mushers who doesn't leave much of an online footprint, you *might* be able to find her on Facebook.

This year's class of rookies is an interesting bunch, with several with the ability to vy for Rookie of the Year. Don't expect a performance quite as dramatic as last year's RotY Jessie Holmes, but we could see another rookie break the top 10 if they play their cards right. Some real talent and experience in this group.

Who's your favorite rookie? Comment below!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Where to Watch - Iditarod Start

Allen Moore waves to fans as he passes through Anchorage.
The Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod takes place the first Saturday of March every year in Downtown Anchorage, Alaska. This day is also known as Susan Butcher day - which was granted by a proclamation from Governor Sarah Palin's office in March 2008 to provide a way to "remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world." The Iditarod start in Anchorage draws huge crowds, media coverage, and is a general celebration of sled dog sports and Alaskan tradition.

The Ceremonial Start is a must see for any Iditarod/Mushing fan. People come from all over the world to catch the action. This is the party before game day. Tailgating, cheer leading, fandoms - it's like the Superbowl and Olympic Opening Ceremonies rolled into one. Historically, the Anchorage start played a part in the race, but as the city of Anchorage grew it became increasingly more difficult to safely cross busy streets and run along the highway. Now, the Ceremonial Start is just that: Ceremonial. It's where Iditariders sit in sleds and wave with their musher as teams fun down the streets and trails lined with onlookers.

Downtown at 4th Avenue and D Street is where the action is, and attracts the majority of viewers. From 4th Avenue to Cordova the crowd is three to four people deep all the way down both sides of the street. There are tall barriers and the audience is somewhat removed from the teams. This makes sense as the burst of energy that the teams have out of the gate and the media and officials all need room to breathe. It keeps spectators a little more removed from the sport, however, and many find other places to watch. Go early to see the teams setting up and possibly get to chat with the mushers before go time.

If you just have to be downtown (and I suppose everyone should see it from there at least once) there are other options if crowds aren't your thing. While not up close and personal, standing on the top of the JC Penney Parking Garage is always a favorite, especially for photographers. Even Iditarod Photog Jeff Schultz will shoot a few photos from there. You can look down on the teams as they run by. If heights aren't your thing, though, I don't recommend this.

As I recommended in a previous Get Away post, the Aviator Hotel offers Iditarod packages with rooms that overlook the race start. They also have a viewing party. This is one way to be RIGHT THERE and not have to deal with the crazy crowds. The windows used to open for an unobstructed view. I cannot say if that's still the case.

Further down at the corner of 4th and Cordova is a fun spot to watch, it's the first turn the teams have to make, and the dogs enjoy playing crack the whip. This is where barriers are normally tapering off and you can see the action unobstructed.

The teams pass through the Sullivan Arena sports complex, which is another good spot to catch action (especially if you're worried about parking.) This is where they come off of the city streets and run the trail system beginning at the Chester Creek Trail.

The next spot with ample parking and a scenic setting is the Davenport Ball Fields. In 2017, the Ceremonial Start ended here (and was a logistical quagmire trying to stop dogs just three miles into a run!). Typically there is very little crowd in this spot and those that do stop to watch here are friendly. There's parking at the ball fields as well as up above the trail by the Methodist Church (park in their overflow parking). Teams run under the road through a tunnel here, so stay out of the way of the tunnel and follow any direction from the Volunteers.

Next is Goose Lake - this is a full on trail-gate party and where a lot of Martin Buser diehard fans show up. There is ample parking at this location as well, but get there early to avoid having to wonder if you'll find a spot. Plus it's fun to meet people.

The next spot has become a very busy spot, but it is my absolute favorite. The University Lake/Tudor Crossing has seen a lot of changes over the years, but one constant is the volunteer crew who works it. Yup, you guessed it, this is where my family has trail guarded since the first time they ran through Anchorage. Seriously, this has been the Reitter's spot for going on 40 years (I have to try and find the year they started working that spot). Back in the day the crew had to shovel snow onto the road for teams to cross and stop traffic to let them cross. Now there's a lovely walking/biking/ski bridge they cross over while tons of vehicles move beneath them. In just the last few years the Alaska Native Medical Hospital has grown and there are now tons of buildings where dirt lots used to be. This is a fun spot. Aliy Zirkle's sponsor Matson hosts FREE HOTDOGS for the crowd and all the teams. My heart says "don't give away this spot, it's already busy" but my hear also says come to this spot because it's the best. Plus you can always find me to say hi. (I'm shy and introverted, but not on Iditarod day!)

BLM/Campbell Airstrip is the "finish line" this is where dogs get packed back up into the dog trucks and teams head for Willow. There is a lot of action going on as dogs are snacked and it's this beautiful dance of dog trucks. If you're a photographer you can get some really nice shots as they come down the airstrip. Lots of trees and it looks much less urban. Some areas are off limits due to security and logistics. Make sure to follow all instruction from any volunteer doing crowd control.

Okay, got it, but what time?

Teams leave the starting line at 10am on the dot. If you are watching from Downtown through Goose Lake I recommend getting to your spot by 9am - for downtown even earlier unless you want to park somewhere insanely far away. If you want to be in the front row at 4th and D... be prepared to hang out there for a long while or take turns with people in your group.

It takes them about 20 minutes to get from downtown to University Lake (average show for the first team). Teams do stop along the way for every reason just like they would a race. While they do not snack the dogs like they will while racing (at only 11 miles there's no point to do it before they stop at the BLM) but the mushers may stop at the different spots to say hi to fans or grab food (Matson actually has mushers call in a special order on what to put on their dogs lol). So while it's a parade of awesome, don't expect them to go in bib order. Get to this area no later than 9:30 if you want dibs on a decent spot (or get in line for a hotdog before teams come through).

It takes about a half an hour to forty minutes for teams to start pouring into the BLM. Showing up any time after 10am should work out for you.

Teams leave the chute in two minute intervals, so multiply the number of teams plus one (and if there are any extra ididarider teams add them in, too) by two and then divide by 60 minutes to see how long you'll be standing out in the snow. This is the best way to estimate when you will be done in your area.


Grab a copy of the Friday edition of the Anchorage Daily News. In the sports section they have a pull out with full color photos of every musher in bib order. You can also get the bib number list from Print it out and checkmark each team as they go by. Note that Bib #1 will not be a musher racing but is the "Honorary Musher" who is in the sled driven by the Jr. Iditarod Champion. Also note that if a musher withdraws prior to the Ceremonial Start but AFTER the Iditarider auction, they will STILL RUN TEAMS so that every rider gets a chance. This is not notated on either list, and so it's just a guess as to when they will show up (they typically are the last sled(s) out of the gate).

If you can head downtown before the 10am start, the staging area is apparently open for fans to walk through from about 8:30am to 9:30am. Just be sure to use your manners and common sense. No petting dogs without permission, and don't try to jump in and help. When they start moving fans out of the staging area, be courteous and head out and find a spot to watch. Security is key, and you don't want to get in the way. We want to keep this opportunity a reality for years to come. (Thank you Linda for this protip!)

You don't have to stay in one place. If you want to watch from downtown but also want to check out some of the other spots listed above (and you have your own vehicle/transportation) watch the first few teams from 4th Avenue and then drive over to another spot. You may miss a few teams, but you can see most of them. If you do it this way  Tudor Crossing or the BLM are your best options as that's at least a 20 minute run for the teams and it should only take you about 10-15 minutes by car.

Where's your favorite spot along the trail? Have any questions about viewing I didn't answer - shoot me a message in the comments below.