Fun & Weird

One for the Wishlist: Experiencing the Start of the Iditarod

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The 2017 Iditarod starts today and I find myself reminiscing about my experience last year. Seeing the Iditarod had been on my wish list for awhile and last year I finally made it happen.

It was not at all what I expected.

And not just because Washington, DC had more snowfall by February than Anchorage. Arriving two days before the race, it felt surreal to see brown, barren ground in Alaska! Race officials had to bring snow in by rail car and shorten the original route through downtown Anchorage. Fortunately, at least for aesthetics, about 3 inches fell the day before the race started, which didn’t help the course, but did leave a blanket of white on everything else.Downtown Anchorage Mar 4 2016 before after

In my mind, the Iditarod would be a big international event with lots of media coverage and crowds in the thousands. Before researching, I assumed I’d need to buy tickets in advance or camp out for a good spot along the route in Anchorage. Iditarod 2016 Race Start Keri

Nope! We just needed to walk a few blocks from the Anchorage Sheraton to the race start less than 30 minutes before the start.2016 Iditarod Race starting line

2016 Iditarod Race downtown Anchorage

Rather than a glossy production, the race had the wonderful feel of a small town parade. The crowd was mostly residents who seemed familiar with the various sled teams.

This puppy was ready to run!

This puppy was ready to run!

The first few blocks around the starting line were pretty packed, but a little further down the course there was plenty of room and you could even sit on the edge of the snow bank to get good pictures.

Remembering the great fun @tebfunk and I had at the 2016 #iditarod!

A post shared by Keri Anderson (@heelsfirst) on

2016 Iditarod Race close up

About 5 blocks from the starting line there was plenty of room and no barriers

2016 Iditarod Race dog team

I’d also pictured the start as a frantic melee of dog teams taking off at the start of the bell and jockeying for first place. Once I arrived, it was clear how impractical that would be and having the teams start at 2 minute intervals was a much saner, though anti-climatic, approach.

Ready to go! #iditarod

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2016 Iditarod Race downtown anchorage course

The biggest surprise of the day was how many people didn’t realize the Iditarod was happening. Fellow guests in the club lounge and gym who were surprised to hear I was here for the race. “What is that again?” Even local cab drivers were unaware of the street closures that morning.

But it was an amazing (and cold) time, so glad I had the opportunity!  If seeing part of the Iditarod is on your wish list, it’s easy to plan and visit, I encourage you to make the trip.

More From This Trip

The San Juan Airport Doesn’t Want You to Find the Hotel
Snow for the Iditarod
BBQ & Fat Birds in Anchorage

Seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska
Experiencing the Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks
A Hundred Dollar Bills at Chatanika Lodge

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

3 Comments

  1. Steven

    March 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    So this is the “ceremonial” start in Anchorage. The actual race starts in a town called Willow north of Anchorage.

    • Keri Anderson

      March 4, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Yep! And this year they actually moved the restart from Willow to Fairbanks.

  2. Kabukijuul

    March 4, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for this post! I have an 8 year old obsessed with the iditarod and I showed this to him.

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