Whether you are a lifelong Alaskan or have yet to visit the Great Land, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think “winter in Alaska.”
The Iditarod began in 1973 to test the endurance of mushers and to commemorate the 1925 run from Nenana to Nome to deliver diphtheria serum, known as the “Great Race of Mercy.” Today it is the most iconic sporting event in Alaska. The 2014 race begins March 1, with the ceremonial start on Anchorage’s historic Fourth Ave. On the following day, the official start occurs 80 miles north of Anchorage in Willow.
Imagine being alone with only your team of sled dogs in the wintry Alaska wilderness for more than 1,000 miles – this is the plight accepted by an Iditarod musher. Affectionately dubbed the “father of the Iditarod,” Joe Redington, Sr. played a vital role in starting the famous race. Redington explained, “I’ve seen snow machines break down and fellows freeze to death out there in the wilderness. But dogs will always keep you warm, and they’ll always get you there.”
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Mushing 1,049 miles of the Iditarod trail isn’t for everyone. However, anyone can take part in the “Last Great Race on Earth” as a spectator, and the Westmark Anchorage Hotel has you covered. The world-class mushing action surrounding the ceremonial start is only a few short blocks from the Westmark. Due to the ideal location, top-rated customer service and comfortable rooms, we encourage you to book early to experience the wonder of the Iditarod combined with the top-notch accommodations that the Westmark offers.
The March 1 event starts in the morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony; and then the mushers begin, departing in two-minute intervals. Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa and you can cheer on the mushers as they embark upon the journey of a lifetime. Witnessing the ceremonial start is certainly exciting, but there’s also something very special about cheering on the mushers and their four-legged companions as they disappear into the Alaska wilderness. While you’re in the Last Frontier watching the state’s most impressive sporting event, why not make a weekend out of it? After enjoying the ceremonial start in Anchorage, stay another night and take the hour and a half drive north to Willow for the official start.
Additional details about the 2014 Iditarod are available at Iditarod.com.