Iditarod Front-Runners Headed For White Mountain

Front running teams are making their way for White Mountain Tuesday morning.

Dallas Seavey left the Koyuk checkpoint in first place Monday afternoon. He said he was not concerned that he may have to break trail through fresh snow and heavily windblown drifts.

“When there’s wind the drifts keep coming, so you don’t have to worry about flattening them all,” Seavey said. “You know there will be more for the next person.”

Seavey may have gotten lucky on his way to Koyuk after rival Aaron Burmeister spent several hours breaking trail out of Shaktoolik. But Seavey says just because a team broke the trail in front of his, doesn’t mean his dogs had an easy time.

Dallas Seavey's team pulls into Ruby Wednesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)
Dallas Seavey’s team pulls into Ruby Wednesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“I think Aaron had it easier honestly,” Seavey said. “What we had out here was s surface that had a little bit of a crust, and the first team that went through it, it held up two thirds of the doggy feet. Then the next team that goes through, there’s more holes and more teams are punching through.”

But Aaron Burmeister says the run was a game changer for his dog team.

“I never would have attempted that run knowing it was going to be snowing out,” he said. “I was expecting it to be windy, but it snowed six to eight inches in about four hours, dumped on the trail, created monster snow drifts and we ended up breaking trail through a white out.”

He says he had to switch his leaders out multiple times. He believes the run took enough energy out of his dogs, so that teams behind could take advantage. He says he’s not sure if he will maintain his second place standing all the way to Nome.

“I’m definitely looking over my shoulder right now, because that took a lot out of my dogs to get them here in this position,” Burmeister said.

Burmeister is running his fifth Iditarod. He has never run as far up front in any of his previous races. That’s the case for Jessie Royer as well.

“It’s kind of exciting because I have never been one of those teams before,” Royer said. “I’ve been top-10, but I have never been top five. It’s a nice team this year, I’m pretty happy with them. They are just doing a nice job.”

But Royer says she’ll be careful not to get too excited. She says there’s still a long way to go before Nome.

“There’s so many different situations you can run into,” she said. “I won’t be excited until Safety.”

Safety is the final checkpoint, 30 miles from the finish line. Before teams get there, they will take a mandatory eight-hour layover in White Mountain.