Iditarod Ceremonial Start Thrills Crowds in Anchorage

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March 5, 2017

It was just 11 miles, but the excitement and the noise were just as high.

The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race filled Anchorage with the sights and sounds of the full race, as 72 teams of up to 2,000 dogs showed off their looks and skills to an appreciative audience in Alaska's largest city.

The teams gathered in downtown Anchorage and then left in a staggered start to compete the few miles around the area. Racing teams will travel along the Northern Route this year but, because of poor weather conditions, will not start in Willow, as is the custom. Rather, Fairbanks, for the second time in the past three years, will be the site of the start of this epic contest that commemorates a desperate attempt to get medicine from one part of the state to another in years gone past.

Snowfall along the Northern Route has been light this winter. Even in Anchorage, crew had to bring in snow to ensure that the racing sleds weren't treading on bare pavement. For much of the way to Nome, however, snow abounds.

One important change this year is designed to make the racing teams more safe. For the first time, mushers will be able to carry cell phones or satellite phones. The rule change came in part as a reaction to an incident in 2016 in which a marauder on a snowmobile attacked two racing teams, resulting in the death of one racing dog and injuries to a few others.

Aiming for his record-tying fifth victory this year will be Dallas Seavey, who set the course record last year.

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