Fans of the Iron Dog have always come to Big Lake for the race start each February. But this year, they'll get the chance to see something entirely new - the crowning of a champion.
For the first time, the Iron Dog is finishing in Big Lake, rather than starting there. Pro Class racers will start in Fairbanks on Feb. 16 and head for Nome, via a loop through Kotzebue. After a layover there, it's back on the trail south, with the finish on Big Lake on Feb. 22. The race organizers expect a finish sometime around 10 a.m. on Feb. 22. The finish line is at the SouthPort Marina, off Tammy Yunti Court. An entire day is planned, with vendor booths, Iron Dog merchandise and much more. It opens around 9:30 a.m.
The Iron Dog is the world's longest snowmobile race, and tests not only the riders, but the machines. It covers more than 2,400 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.
With the change in route in 2020, it will be the longest race in history. Teams consist of two riders each, and both must finish together. Because of the pace and the safety of the riders, there are scheduled layovers that are mandatory. At the Nome halfway point, there is a 24-hour rest period.
The Iron Dog began in 1984 as the Iron Dog Iditarod, and it followed the northern route of the Iditarod Trail. The name changed to the Gold Rush Classic until 1990, when it was known as the Iron Dog Gold Rush Classic. As sponsors have changed throughout the years, it has had several different names, but Iron Dog has remained constant.
For a complete schedule of events for the finish line and other Iron Dog-related events, visit their web site.