Article by dipika patel
The world-famous Iditarod sled dog race is the perfect setting for a holiday with a unique twist – especially if it’s your first visit to Alaska.
Once a year, the ruggedly beautiful state plays host to the world’s foremost dogsledding event, in which mushers make an epic 1,150-mile trek over some of the most challenging landscapes in the world. Along with their teams of ten to 12 dogs, racers must contend with sub-zero temperatures, magnificent mountain ranges, dense forests, icy rivers and desolate Arctic tundra.
During your Alaska holiday at the beginning of March, you’ll have the chance to experience the excitement of the Iditarod firsthand. Attend the Iditarod Mushers Banquet and meet the racers, then get caught up in the drama as the names are drawn for the starting positions of each competitor.
Anchorage really comes alive during race time and you’re sure to want to spend time exploring the city to see how preparations are made for the event. Pay a behind-the-scenes visit to the Iditarod Communications Center to see how the mushers will be monitored during the epic trek.
Then, make your way to the starting line and join the crowds of spectators to see the racers off on their epic journey. Once the mushers and their dogs have left Anchorage, it’s time to follow them! Travel by air over the majestic Alaskan wilderness to one of the official Iditarod checkpoints for even more race action and excitement.
Skwentna is the busiest checkpoint of the entire race – all of the mushers and their dogs check in here on the first night. You’ll find the station buzzing with energy as volunteers put together food packs for the racers – it’s chaos of the best kind! The checkpoint is based near the incredible Mt McKinley – spend some time enjoying the gorgeous Alaskan scenery before returning to your base in Anchorage.
For an in-depth look at the history of the epic trek, take a tour of the Iditarod race headquarters and museum before making your way back to the race checkpoint to see the mushers off into the rugged Alaskan wild.
If you are interested in how the dogs are trained for the gruelling race, stop off at the kennel of Iditarod veteran Vern Halter, where experts will be able to field all your questions. Learn how the mushers survive in the freezing Alaskan temperatures and see firsthand how racing dogs are cared for and trained. Finally, enjoy an extended sled dog ride of your own before gathering with your group for a final bonfire in the wilderness.
The Iditarod attracts mushers from all over the world and has attracted attention from documentary filmmakers as far away as Japan. On the journey between Anchorage and Nome, racers pass through one of two routes – via the northern communities of Ruby, Gallena and Cripple or the southern towns of Anvik, Shageluk and Iditarod itself. The routes are alternated yearly to ensure that the entire state remains involved in the race and as many Alaskans as possible are included in the preparations. And no matter what order they finish in, every musher is given a hero’s welcome as they make their final run into Nome.
But your American holiday does not only need to focus on the Iditarod sled dog race – you’ll want to take time to explore the incredible natural beauty of Alaska.
Travel south of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm to the mountain settlement of Girdwood, where you can ride the Alyeska Resort Aerial Tramway. From the lookout at the 2,300-foot level of Mt Alyeska, you’ll be able to take in panoramic views of the stunning mountain landscape. The nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is also well worth a visit – stop here to learn more about the creatures that call this unique state home.
From here, you have several options if you want to make the most of your USA holiday. You can choose to remain in Alaska for a few extra days, or make your trip to Anchorage part of a multi-centre holiday that also stops in Seattle, Hawaii or San Francisco.
But no matter how you choose to travel, you’re sure to have a brilliant time in the Alaskan wilderness – start planning your unforgettable break today!
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