Alaska: where sled dogs ‘fly exultantly under the stars’ – specifically Polaris and the Big Dipper, which twinkle against the navy blue of the state flag.
Mushing has a long and storied history here in ‘The Last Frontier’. Indigenous Americans taught this age-old mode of transport to European arrivals. Later, prospectors used it in search of Yukon gold, and a band of heroic dogsledders battled blizzards to deliver medicine during the 1925 Serum Run. Today, this beloved Alaskan tradition is showcased each March with the Iditarod Trail.
The Iditarod is no cake walk, and not every sled dog has its day. Howling huskies meet howling winds, and skilled mushers navigate blinding snow, on a 1,510-kilometre race from Anchorage to Nome. Pushing themselves to the limit, competitors mush between some 26 checkpoints in pursuit of local-hero status and a pretty prize packet.
Witness this two-week feat of endurance yourself with the ultimate Iditarod experience, tailored to you by A&K. This famous race can form the centrepiece of a truly immersive Alaskan adventure.
Ahead of the race, get into the winter spirit by attending Fur Rendezvous Festival – known fondly as the ‘Rondy’. This snow-bound knees-up in Anchorage features a range of quintessentially Alaskan events, from tribal dances to the blanket toss. It also serves as a superb ceremonial send-off for the Iditarod sled teams.
There is time enough for an expertly guided tour of this, Alaska’s largest city. Your tour may include a behind-the-scenes excursion to Anchorage Museum; a visit to Earthquake Park to view the remnants of the devastating 1964 earthquake; an exploration of indigenous Alaskan arts and crafts; or a visit to the home studio of famed artist Jon Van Zyle, creator of all Iditarod race posters since its inception in 1978.
In downtown Anchorage, we’ll get you up close to the dogs and their mushers, before whisking you away to an excellent A&K-exclusive viewpoint. From here, watch the 50 teams set off to much fanfare.
It isn’t farewell, however, as you’ll be in hot (or rather, ice-cold) pursuit; take a scenic flight north to your exemplary wilderness lodge, from where you’ll access hard-to-reach checkpoints and witness the race from a vantage point few have done before – with A&K’s local team guiding you all the way.
Follow the racers through the Alaskan wilds by private helicopter, discovering nearby glaciers, snow caves, icefalls and crevasses as you go. The USA’s largest and least populous state is spilling over with natural wonders, whose scale is best admired from up high.
Next, land and watch the sled teams rounding the corner at the mouth of Happy River. Snowshoes allow you to walk some distance of trail on foot, and – weather permitting – we can arrange a trailside spread of local delicacies to eat as the mushers pass.
Iditarod racers must take three mandatory rests during the event, including one along the Yukon River and another at White Mountain. We’ll bring you to one of the rest-stops where you can meet the racers, some of whom sleep overnight on the ice alongside their faithful hounds.
We can also arrange for you to take the reins yourself, experiencing a leg of the Iditarod Trail in command of your very own dogsled team. Plunge into the deep boreal forest, with its hardy, huddled spruce, aspen and birch, which provide shelter for all manner of wildlife, from bears to beavers; wolves to wolverines.
On top of your first-hand experience commanding sled dogs, visit the Winterlake Lodge kennels on a private basis to learn how the dogs are looked after during this Herculean race. As a guest of the lodge, a range of additional activities are available to you, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing; as well as more relaxing pursuits, such as cooking and yoga. You shan’t be wanting for fine food either, courtesy of gourmet dinners straight from the kitchen of a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.
As Alaska’s heroic sled dogs ‘fly exultantly under the stars’, we’ll help you fly with them – in inimitable style.