Iron Dog Directors Announce 2021 Race Route
World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race to Start, Finish on Big Lake
The Iron Dog board of directors announced the course for the World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race. Iron Dog 2021 will start and finish on Big Lake, with Nome as the turnaround point.
Pro class teams will leave the Big Lake starting chute on February 14, and return February 20, covering some 2,200 miles during the 38th running of the Iron Dog. Rec class riders will start on Big Lake on February 12 and finish in Nome on February 17.
Discussions continue concerning retaining the Kotzebue Loop that was added into the 2020 event.
“The Iron Dog board of directors found a balance between keeping the race invigorating and keeping the race on budget,” says executive director John Woodbury. “They wanted to continue to be innovative—hence the move to a Southcentral start and finish—while taking into account how fluid the past few months have been for racers, fans and sponsors. Frankly it came down to running the race in the most cost-efficient manner. The toughest part of the process was temporarily pulling out of Fairbanks and those amazing Yukon River communities that have been a part of Iron Dog for years…and they will be a part of Iron Dog in the future, I’m certain.”
Based on survey results that included racers, sponsors, checkpoint volunteers and fans, a majority of the respondents wanted this year’s race to start and finish on Big Lake. In addition to anticipated cost savings, there will also be a significant labor savings as well.
“It takes an army of volunteers to stage Iron Dog, and so many folks selflessly dedicate hours to helping set up and tear down the staging areas at the start, finish and within the checkpoints,” Woodbury says. “This will trim those hours by finding efficiency of task. The volunteers work so hard already, so anything we can do to make them sweat less and smile more is a big help. Volunteers are the backbone of the Iron Dog. We can’t run this race without them, and we are so appreciative of all their time and effort.”
Another innovation the board endorsed for 2021 involves the early registration process for the Pro class. Registration opens online on June 15, and the first 15 teams to complete their paperwork and pay their fees can choose—rather than draw for—their start position within the top 15 spots (or, they can choose to start last).
“Typically, we open registration up for one month, October 1-31,” Woodbury says. “Our goal is to eventually get to where we sign folks up right at the finish of the race so they can plan for snow-check sleds, and maybe start convincing the spouse earlier in the year that Iron Dog is a good fit for the upcoming winter. The early registration also allows Iron Dog to start its logistics roll-out so we can better gauge our fuel and transportation costs, and take advantage of fuel discounts and safer landing strips.”
Registration closes October 31, 2020. Entry fees per person are the same as last year: Pro class entry is $4,100; Rec class entry is $2,600.
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Alaska Problems Require Alaska Solutions
On January 16, a fire destroyed the water plant and washeteria in the southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak. For the village of about 350 people, it was a devastating blow. The water plant was the only source of drinking water in the village, in which the primarily Yup’ik residents lack indoor plumbing and rely on honey buckets, not uncommon in the flat, swampy region.