Experience ‘The Last Great Race’ in Alaska

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Dog mushing, Alaska’s official state sport has proven a reliable form of transportation for Alaskans for hundreds of years.  This was highlighted during the 1925 ‘Serum Run’ where heroic dogs and mushers became life savers in an incredible race against time.

This legendary journey started just south of Fairbanks and ended 674 miles later in Nome which was facing an outbreak of diphtheria, a 20 pound cylinder of diphtheria serum took a gruelling trip with the help of 20 mushers and more than 100 dogs. The epic run was accomplished in just five days when Gunnar Kaasen and his lead dog Balto arrived in Nome on 2 February 1925.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race first ran to Nome in 1973 inspired by this courageous journey. Today, the Iditarod, a race of approximately 1,000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain mother nature has to offer throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams.

Now there’s the chance to experience the Iditarod first hand with a range of packages available:

Artisan Travel (www.artisantravel.co.uk/ 01670 785 085) is offering an incredible chance to experience the Iditarod on its eleven night ‘The Spirit of Alaska: Iditarod 2016’ tour. This action-packed itinerary includes the exhilarating ceremonial and official start of the race on 5 March, a dog sledding ride with an Iditarod veteran, as well as a journey to the frozen waters of Prince William Sound before heading to the winter wonderland north of Fairbanks in search of the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis.   The tour is priced from £2045 excluding international flights.

Discover the World (www.discover-the-world.co.uk/ 01737 214 291) offers a seven night / eight day ‘Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race’ tour which offers the chance to experience some of the Iditarod highlights, such as the pre-race Musher’s Banquet, the thrill of the race start and the chance to visit a check-point along the trail. A dog-sled ride with an Iditarod veteran and a scenic ski-plane flight over Denali National Park are also included. The tour is priced from £1924 excluding international flights.

Visitors heading to Alaska to observe and take part in the Iditarod celebrations are also able to experience Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous Winter Carnival which in 2016 will take place from 26 February to 6 March. The largest winter festival in Alaska, ‘Fur Rondy’ as it’s fondly known celebrates the end of the long winter months with a range of events which represent the pioneering spirit of the Alaskans.

The Blanket Toss, an ancient Alaska Native tradition, joined the festival in 1950. Native Alaskans were flown into Anchorage from Nome and the Little Diomede Islands to participate in the Blanket Toss which originated as a hunting technique whereby the Inupiaq hunter would be tossed in the air, enabling them to see across the horizon to hunt game.

Now thirty or more Inupiaq gather in a circle, holding the edges of a large skin made from walrus hides, and toss someone into the air as high as possible. The person being tossed throws gifts into the crowd and loses their turn when they lose their balance. The object: to maintain balance and return to the blanket without falling over.

The World Championship Sled Dog Race debuted in 1946 and has become the cornerstone event of the festival, bringing teams of sled dogs and mushers to Anchorage from across Alaska and all over the world.

For more information on Alaska as a travel destination visit www.alaskatravel.com