One for the Wishlist: Experiencing the Start of the Iditarod

a group of dogs pulling a sled

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.a collage of a city

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. a woman smiling at camera

Nope! We just needed to walk a few blocks from the Anchorage Sheraton to the race start less than 30 minutes before the start.a crowd of people in a street

a crowd of people in a city

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.

a group of dogs in harnesses in the snow
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

a group of dogs pulling a sled
About 5 blocks from the starting line there was plenty of room and no barriers

a man in a sled pulling a dog sled

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

A post shared by Keri Anderson (@heelsfirst) on

a group of people standing in a line in front of a building

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

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

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