The classic Iditarod race begins in March with a ceremonial start through the streets of downtown Anchorage, snow permitting. The official start (called the "restart") takes places the next day in Willow, about a two-hour drive from Anchorage. From there, competitors head some 1,100 miles toward Nome, through some of the most rugged and inaccessible wilderness in North America.
The start is a big, friendly hometown party, but visitors interested in dogsledding aren't limited to the sidelines. A number of outfitters offer courses and excursions ranging from the dogsled equivalent of a pony ride (you sit in the sled and someone else does the driving) to full-fledged multi-day courses that cover dog care, equipment, and backcountry mushing techniques.
The fundamental challenge boils down to staying up. Basically, you stand on the runners of the sled and try to keep your balance while a team of dogsfor beginners, usually four or five dogshurtles determinedly forward. If you've ever wondered whether these dogs actually want to run, just try to stop them. Dogsledding requires a sense of balance, a sense of humor and a lot of warm clothes. Once you get your sea legsor snow legs, if you preferyou can concentrate less on balance and more on the awesome winter landscape through which your doggy guides are careening. A several-mile run on a woodland trail is just the right length for a beginner, being enough to thoroughly exhilarate and exhaust but leave you thirsting for more.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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