Since 1984, the Iron Dog snowmobile race has attracted some pretty tough teams in the 2,000 mile-long battle for machine-driven supremacy in the Last Frontier. They have to be; Iron Dog participants must ride the northern route of the Historic Iditarod Trail from Big Lake to Nome, and back to Fairbanks, facing challenging weather, balky sleds, and frigid temperatures as low as -50F. But most competitors wouldn’t have it any other way, and early registration numbers for the 2013 race show higher numbers than years past.
“In early drawings, we’re already exceeding the entire field we had last year,” said Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog’s executive director. “We could have 40 or more teams by the time we actually get to the starting line, and that would be a record.”
Certainly, famous faces like the Scott Davis-Todd Palin duo have ramped up popularity in past years, but the allure of Alaska is strong among Lower 48 contenders, especially now that Caine’s Quest, a Canadian staple among snow machine races, cancelled its 2013 event. Look for East Coast teams to make the long journey to Alaska, high hopes packed along with sled parts and duct tape.
Iron Dog also encourages rural Alaska teams to register, says Kastner. With bush communities relying heavily upon snowmachines as modes of transportation much of the year, these folks should provide some worthy competition for the 2013 race.
“We’ve seen a real up-kick in rural involvement again,” said Kastner. “The team from Bethel is back again, and we also have Kiana, Kotzebue – a bunch of them.”
Once again doubling efforts with the Big Lake Winter Festival during Iron Dog Weekend, slated for February 15-17, 2013, the race start itself is looking to be bigger and flashier, with entertainment, snowmachine stunts, food vendors, and a post-start grand prix by members of Ice Racing Alaska. Iron Dog is also showcasing 30th anniversary swag for the whole family, available both online and at the Iron Dog tent on race weekend.