Iditarod dogs pack Anchorage for race’s ceremonial start

Mar 5, 2022, 12:47 PM | Updated: Mar 7, 2022, 7:47 am
Sled dogs on the team of musher Ryan Redington run through newly fallen snow in downtown Anchorage,...

Sled dogs on the team of musher Ryan Redington run through newly fallen snow in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 5, 2022, during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The competitive start of the nearly 1,000-mile race will be held March 6, 2022, in Willow, Alaska, with the winner expected in the Bering Sea coastal town of Nome about nine days later. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Fans, dogs and mushers returned in droves Saturday to downtown Anchorage in the midst of a snowstorm for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The ceremonial start was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This year, fans attending the 50th running of the race were limited in their interactions with participants but still were able to watch from behind fences as mushers left the starting line two minutes apart.

Mushers took a leisurely jaunt through Alaska’s largest city, waving at fans that lined downtown streets. The competitive race for mushers and their dogs starts Sunday in Willow, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Anchorage, with the winner expected about nine days later in Nome.

Mushers had to show proof of vaccination to race this year, and they will isolate at checkpoints so they don’t bring COVID-19 to the rural, largely Alaska Native villages along the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) route to Nome.

Some villages opted not to be checkpoints because of the ongoing pandemic, leaving mushers to bypass towns, while other arrangements were made in some communities. In White Mountain, where mushers must take an eight-hour layover before making the final 77-mile (124-kilometer) run to Nome, the community building will not be used to house mushers waiting for the final push.

Instead, lumber was delivered, and an elaborate tent camp was being built, including new outhouses, race marshal Mark Nordman said.

There are 49 mushers in this year’s race, including defending champion Dallas Seavey, who is seeking to make history as the first musher to win six Iditarod titles. He’s tied with Rick Swenson with five victories apiece. Win or lose, the 35-year-old indicated this is probably his last race for a while as he wishes to spend more time with his pre-teen daughter.

Also in the race are two four-time winners, Martin Buser and Jeff King.

King, who last raced in 2019, stepped in just this week to run in the place of Nic Petit, who announced on Facebook he had contracted COVID-19. Mitch Seavey, a three-time winner and Dallas’ father, is also back this year, as are 2018 winner Joar Leifseth Ulsom and 2019 champion Pete Kaiser.

Fifteen mushers withdrew before the race started, including 2020 winner Thomas Waerner, who wasn’t allowed to travel to the U.S. from his native Norway.

Musher Jaye Foucher withdrew after her sled dog team in January veered onto a busy Alaska highway and collided with a pickup truck, killing one of the dogs and injuring three others.

Moose are a concern for mushers on the trail this year. A heavy snow year in some parts of Alaska has made moose aggressive toward people in the backcountry, including mushers.

On a training run last month, rookie musher Bridgett Watkins had four of her dogs seriously injured by a moose, which wouldn’t leave and at times stood over the dogs. The incident only ended when a friend shot the bull moose with a high-powered rifle.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals remains the race’s biggest critic and has caused some financial hardship for the race by targeting big-name corporations, which have dropped sponsorships. The Anchorage hotel that has been the race headquarters for three decades will drop its affiliation next year.

Officials with the Lakefront Anchorage Hotel blamed the change on the pandemic’s effect on business, but the move was announced by its owners, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, a day before PETA planned to protest outside the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago.

Countering that, Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach told reporters during a pre-race news conference that they have picked up six new sponsors this year.

“I think that’s a pretty big story for us,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

French airport workers strike for higher pay amid inflation

PARIS (AP) — Flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and other French airports faced disruptions Friday as airport workers held a strike and protests to demand salary hikes to keep up with inflation. The labor action is the latest trouble to hit global airports this summer, as travel resurges after two years of […]
1 hour ago
A fisherman Ng Koon-hee catches a fish in Tai O village of Hong Kong, Saturday, June 25, 2022. The ...
Associated Press

Hong Kong fishermen keep old ways, 25 years after handover

HONG KONG (AP) — Ng Koon-yau calmly pilots his small fishing boat through the azure waters of the South China Sea. The 79-year-old has been fishing ever since he can remember. Ng and his 76-year-old brother Ng Koon-hee came to Hong Kong from Taishan in Guangdong province, across the border in the Chinese mainland, as […]
1 hour ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and Sou...
Associated Press

Asian shares mostly lower after pessimistic ‘tankan’ survey

TOKYO (AP) — Asian benchmarks were mostly lower on Friday, echoing a decline on Wall Street, after a quarterly report by Japan’s central bank rekindled worries about the world’s third largest economy. Shares fell in Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney and Shanghai. Markets were closed in Hong Kong for a holiday. Recent data suggest global growth is […]
1 hour ago
FILE - WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for ...
Associated Press

Trial for US basketball star begins in Moscow-area court

MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is set to go on trial in a Moscow-area court Friday, about 4 1/2 months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist could face up […]
1 day ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Wid...
Associated Press

Putin’s week: Facing NATO expansion, West’s unity on Ukraine

It has not been an easy week for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He took his first foreign trip since the invasion of Ukraine to shore up relations with troublesome Central Asian allies. He watched as NATO declared Moscow its main enemy and invited Russia’s neighbors Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. And he was […]
1 day ago
A roadside cotton candy vendor drinks water from a plastic pouch as he waits for customers at a wee...
Associated Press

India bans some single-use plastic as part of broader plan

NEW DELHI (AP) — India banned some single-use or disposable plastic products Friday as part of a federal plan to phase out the ubiquitous material in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people. For the first stage, it has identified 19 plastic items that aren’t very useful but have a high potential to become litter […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Iditarod dogs pack Anchorage for race’s ceremonial start