Alaska’s official state sport
Dog mushing has been part of life in Alaska since its earliest days, long before it was a state or European explorers reached its shores. Despite the great distances between some rural communities, traveling by dog team is often still the best way to get around. Today, dog teams are used by rural residents who rely on teams to hunt and travel; weekend hobbyists who enjoy exploring the backcountry with man’s best friend; and Alaska’s version of elite sports celebrities – the competitors in the state’s big-name races.
Experience it for yourself
For visitors, there are several ways to get in touch with Alaska’s dog-mushing culture.
Perhaps easiest is to join the cheering fans at one of dozens of races that take place statewide each winter. Sprint races take place frequently, sometimes at designated dog mushing trails and tracks, other times on downtown streets during festivals or other big events. The start and finish lines of the state’s premier long-distance races are also exciting. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race starts in downtown Anchorage and finishes in Nome to the applause of thousands of spectators. The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race alternates its start between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, so depending on the year, you can be part of the send off or the return on the frozen Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. Check local events calendars for a schedule of upcoming races.
Tours and hands-on experiences
In communities across Alaska, tours are available that allow guests to ride in a sled basket behind the team or even stand on the runners and mush their own team. These tours can range from a couple of hours to several days. The longer experiences include guided winter backcountry camping for the truly adventurous. Kennel tours are also common. Mushers take guests through their kennels to learn about the raising and training of dog teams, meet puppies and go for short ride. These experiences are also widely available in the summer, when some teams relocate to the tops of glaciers to continue training year-round. Guests travel by helicopter to glacier camps for a truly amazing experience.
To connect with mushers and tours, click here.