The world's longest snowmobile race officially kicks off next week in Big Lake, as the Iron Dog roars to a start. Pro Class racers hit the trail starting on Saturday, Feb. 17, followed by the Expedition Class.

Pro Class racers will line up at the starting chute and depart in 2-minute intervals, with the first team going out at 10 a.m. from Big Lake on Saturday morning, on the ice in front of Susitna Brewing Company (formerly South Port Marina) . It begins the 2,500-mile race that takes racers through rugged Interior Alaska, across the Alaska Range along the Iditarod Trail, all the way to Nome. Once in Nome and after completing a mandatory 24-hour layover, racers return south, before speeding all the way back to finish on Big Lake on Sunday, Feb. 25.

The Iron Dog is the world's longest snowmobile race, and tests not only the riders, but the machines. It covers more than 2,500 miles of the roughest terrain in the world, at fast speeds. The harsh arctic winter conditions also play a major role in the race as well.

There's a chance to interact with the racers, see the machines and learn about the race on Wednesday, February 14. From 2:15 to 7 p.m. at the Curtis Menard Center, the Racer Meet & Greet and Safety Expo takes place, which is open to the public. Earlier that day, the racers will draw for their starting positions in a closed luncheon.

For a complete schedule of events for the finish line and other Iron Dog-related events, visit their web site.