Emily Schwing, NNN - Northwest News Network


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

In the final push for Nome, Iditarod mushers are making big moves and cutting rest, but fresh snow, and drifted trail isn’t only slowing the leaders – trail conditions have also slowed dog teams in chase mode. Download Audio

Iditarod teams that reach the coast at Unalakleet will run into a fierce windstorm and blowing snow.

Iditarod teams began the final push up the Bering Sea Coast Sunday night. Everything from the condition of the dogs, to the weather can change dramatically and quickly on the sea ice, and that has mushers scrutinizing their own decisions and those made by their fellow competitors. Download Audio

Iditarod teams are making their way for the Bering Sea Coast, after days of travel along the frozen Yukon River and through the Interior’s boreal forest. Download Audio

According to the Iditarod race rules, teams have to rest for 24 hours somewhere along the trail. They also have to take an eight-hour mandatory rest before they leave the Yukon River and again near the end of the race.

This year’s race reroute has left even the most seasoned of Iditarod mushers feeling like rookies. Race leaders won’t start to appear until after teams complete their mandatory layovers and make up their start time differentials.

Mushers are allowed to start the Iditarod with a maximum of 16 dogs. More than a third of way into the race, many teams are still that large because of a combination of easy-going river miles, good dog care and support from fellow mushers. Download Audio

Huslia marks the halfway point along this year’s Iditarod Trail. Many mushers are looking forward to leaving the Yukon River and heading for the tiny Interior village.

Race Update: 5:45 p.m. Aaron Burmeister was leading a pack of mushers into Huslia early Thursday evening. He was running ahead of a small group that included Martin Buser, Thomas Waerner, and Dallas Seavey. Whether sled dogs are in need of rest will start to show as teams near the halfway mark in this year’s race. More mushers than ever are towing trailers behind their sleds to carry dogs as they travel down the trail. The jury is still out on whether the method actually does benefit dogs.

Mushers have been travelling this year’ Iditarod trail from Fairbanks with few complains, but after the left Tanana Wednesday, they found a slow, soft trail.

Denali musher Jeff King led the Iditarod front-runners into Galena...with Aliy Zirkle and Aaron Burmeister arriving around an hour and a half later. The Iditarod saw its first scratch of the race, as Zoya DeNure made the decision in Tanana, citing personal reasons. Download Audio

Race Update 6:00 pm: Five mushers were closing in on Ruby. The group of leaders included Mitch Seavey, Dallas Seavey, Aaron Burmeister, Martin Buser and Aliy Zirkle. The Mackey brothers were taking a layover in Tanana. The Mackey family has long been known as a mushing dynasty within the Iditarod community. Patriarch Dick Mackey won the race in 1978. Years later, Lance Mackey claimed four championships in a row. Little brother Jason just might take on the most meaningful race of his life. When Jason Mackey arrived in Tanana, he was not feeling good about his dog team.

Travelling a thousand miles by dog team can be exciting, but many of those miles can also be repetitive, so many mushers carry iPods stocked with music, audio books, and even movies.

Aliy Zirkle's team was the first out of Tanana Tuesday night, leading the field down the Yukon River toward Ruby on the race's longest leg. Mushers are required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest at a checkpoint along the river. Sub-zero temperatures helped some mushers decide to take the rest early. Download Audio

Brent Sass has been disqualified from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The musher was informed by race Marshall Mark Nordman after he arrived in Tanana that he will not be able to continue the race because the Eureka-based musher violated a rule about using a wireless communication device on the trail. Download Audio

Martin Buser regained the early lead in this year’s Iditarod. He was the first to Tanana Tuesday afternoon. He was followed by Hugh Neff and Aliy Zirkle, both had made it to Tanana by early evening.

Girdwood's Nicolas Petit pulled into Manley Hot Springs just after 3 a.m. Tuesday, with Martin Buser, Hugh Neff, DeeDee Jonrowe and Aaron Burmeister less than two hours behind. The competition in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race can only be described as stiff. There are six returning champions and a handful of other mushers vying for a top-10 finish. But, mushers are all feeling a little new to the race as they travel down an unfamiliar, rerouted trail. Download Audio

Race Update 6:30: Past Iditarod champion Martin Buser and rookie Thomas Waerner were the first in to and out of Nenana Monday afternoon. They were trailed by Michelle Phillips and Jessie Royer. Buser arrived about 3:00 p.m. He took off shortly before 3:30 p.m. Waerner was bout 30 minutes behind Buser. DeeDee Jonrowe and Aliy Zirkle left Nenana minutes apart and were trailing the leaders Monday afternoon.

This year 78 mushers are signed up to drive dog teams in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but only a third of them are women. In the Yukon Quest, only 3 of 26 mushers who started this year were women. Despite the small numbers, many are up-and-coming mushers who are redefining what it means to run dogs. Download Audio