Breaking Records: The 2020 Iditarod Faces Unprecedented Snowfall Conditions – A Challenge for Sled Dog Teams

The Exciting and Challenging 2020 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

The 2020 Iditarod sled dog race, a thrilling annual event, is set to begin on the first Saturday of March. Held in Alaska, this legendary 1,000-mile race is a true test of endurance and skill for mushers and their teams of loyal dogs. In recent times, the Iditarod has gained immense popularity and attracts participants from around the world. This year, with the highest snowfall in 21 years, the race poses even more challenges for the contenders. In this article, we will explore the excitement, history, and notable contenders of the 2020 Iditarod.

The Rich Tradition of the Iditarod

The Iditarod sled dog race, often referred to as the “Last Great Race on Earth,” captures the spirit of Alaska’s rich history and showcases the remarkable bond between mushers and their canine companions. Whether it is the breathtaking landscapes, the fierce competition, or the incredible stories of determination and survival, the Iditarod has become a symbol of adventure and resilience.

The Battle for Victory

As the 2020 Iditarod approaches, all eyes are on the top contenders vying for victory. Peter Kaiser, the defending champion, seeks to secure back-to-back wins, while Aliy Zirkle, who narrowly missed victory multiple times, hopes to finally claim her first Iditarod title. Another strong competitor is Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the runner-up from last year, who aims to clinch his second championship since 2018.

The Challenging Journey

The Iditarod racecourse spans two mountain ranges, challenging mushers and their teams with rugged terrains and harsh weather conditions. Mushers begin the race with a team of 12 to 14 dogs, but they must finish with a minimum of five. The demanding route, covering over 1,000 miles, includes 24 checkpoints where mushers can rest, feed their dogs, and receive supplies.

Rewards and Recognition

The Iditarod is not only a test of endurance but also a chance to earn substantial rewards and prestigious recognition. With a purse of $500,000, the Iditarod is the richest dog sled race in the world. The winner typically takes home approximately $50,000, which adds to the allure and excitement of the race.

One of the most sought-after accolades in the Iditarod is the Golden Harness award. Since 1977, mushers vote to determine the outstanding lead dog, and the winner is awarded a golden harness. In 2019, Pete Kaiser’s lead dog, Morrow, was honored with the prestigious Golden Harness, adding another layer of achievement to Kaiser’s remarkable journey.

The race also recognizes the last musher to cross the finish line with the Red Lantern Award. This symbol of perseverance and determination acknowledges the efforts of all participants, regardless of their ranking. In the 2019 Iditarod, Victoria Hardick claimed the Red Lantern after completing the race in 14 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes.

Exploring the 2020 Northern Route

The 2020 Iditarod will follow the challenging Northern Route, which boasts 24 checkpoints and covers a distance of 975 miles. The race begins in Anchorage, where 57 mushers from different countries, including the US, Canada, Norway, and Denmark, will embark on their epic journey. The route takes them through a series of awe-inspiring locations such as Yentna Station, Skwentna, Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, and Nikolai, among others, before reaching the halfway point at Cripple.

From Cripple, the mushers and their teams continue through various checkpoints, including Ruby, Galena, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, and Elim, until they finally approach the thrilling finish line in Nome. With the abundant snowfall in 2020 and the possibility of more during the race, completing the challenging course is expected to take at least 10 days for the frontrunners to cross the finish line.

Multi-Musher Battle: The Return of Iditarod Champions

The 2020 Iditarod promises an exciting showdown, with several previous champions once again competing for victory. Joining the race are renowned mushers such as Lance Mackey, Martin Buser, Jeff King, Mitch Seavey, and Joar Leifseth Ulsom, all eager to add another Iditarod win to their impressive records.

Peter Kaiser, the defending champion, brings his determination and experience to the race. Kaiser, who hails from Bethel, Alaska, balances his work as a construction worker with his passion for sled dog racing. Last year, he inspired the world with his outstanding performance, and this year, he aims to defend his title against the best in the sport.

Another prominent name in Iditarod history is Lance Mackey, who made history by winning four consecutive titles in the late 2000s. Mackey, known for his tenacity and never-give-up attitude, will be a formidable contender to watch throughout the race.

Mitch Seavey, a revered figure in mushing, holds multiple records in the Iditarod. In 2013, he became the oldest musher to win the race at the age of 56. Seavey’s family legacy in the Iditarod continues with his son, Dallas Seavey, who became the youngest winner in 2012 at the age of 25.

Among the contenders, Aliy Zirkle stands out as a determined musher who has come close to capturing the Iditarod title multiple times, finishing as a runner-up three times. Zirkle’s talent and unwavering spirit make her a force to be reckoned with in the fiercely competitive race.

A Glimpse into Iditarod History

The Iditarod has seen remarkable achievements and records broken by remarkable individuals. In 2011, John Baker made history by becoming the first Iditarod champion of Alaska Native heritage, setting a new record for the fastest time. His victory resonated deeply with the rich ancestry and cultural significance of the race.

In 2017, Mitch Seavey shattered the Iditarod record, completing the southern route in just 8 days, 3 hours, and 40 minutes. The lack of snowfall in recent years contributed to faster finishes and further added to the race’s allure and intensity.


The 2020 Iditarod sled dog race promises to be a captivating and grueling battle between extraordinary athletes, both human and canine. The contenders will face treacherous terrains, freezing temperatures, and unpredictable weather conditions as they race against time and one another. The rich history, traditions, and stories that surround the Iditarod make it a remarkable event and a testament to human determination and resilience.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How long does the Iditarod typically take to complete?

The Iditarod typically takes around nine to ten days to complete, depending on factors such as weather conditions and the overall pace of the race.

2. How many dogs do mushers start and finish with?

Mushers start the race with a team of 12 to 14 dogs, but they must finish with a minimum of five dogs.

3. How is the winner of the Iditarod determined?

The winner of the Iditarod is determined based on the first musher to cross the finish line in Nome, Alaska.

4. What is the Golden Harness award?

The Golden Harness award is given to the outstanding lead dog of the Iditarod, as voted by the mushers. It is a prestigious recognition of the crucial role lead dogs play in guiding the team to victory.

5. Are there any records or notable achievements in the history of the Iditarod?

Yes, there have been several notable achievements in the Iditarod’s history. For example, Mitch Seavey became the oldest musher to win in 2013, while John Baker was the first Alaska Native to claim victory in 2011. Additionally, the fastest finishing times and challenging records continue to shape the race’s legacy.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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