Alaska Airlines (Seattle/Tacoma) will again serve as the official airline sponsor of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, marking the 34th year the carrier has supported the event.
The airline will again present the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award, which recognizes one musher for providing exemplary dog care and is considered the highest honor a competitor can receive. The award is named after one of Alaska’s most-celebrated mushers, whose 1925 sled-dog team traveled the longest distance to transport diphtheria serum to Nome.
As part of its sponsorship, Alaska Airlines also will provide air transportation and dog-care supplies for Iditarod veterinarians who care for the race dogs’ health and safety.
In addition, many Alaska Airlines employees contribute their time at the event. The Dog Squad, staffed by airline employee volunteers, again will assist mushers and their dogs at the finish line. Several Alaska Airlines pilots will lead the Iditarod Air Force, flying veterinarians, supplies and volunteers to remote checkpoints along the trail.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual sled dog team race across Alaska. Mushers and a team of 12-16 dogs (of which at least 6 must be on the towline at the finish line) cover over 1,049 miles in 9–15 days from Anchorage to Nome in western Alaska.
The race begins on the first Saturday in March. The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams but evolved into today’s highly competitive race. The current fastest winning time record was set in 2011 by John Baker with a time of 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds.
Teams frequently race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F (−73 °C). A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow, a city in the south central region of the state. The restart was originally in Wasilla, but because of too little snow, the restart was permanently moved to Willow in 2008. The trail runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages, and small Athabaskan and Inupiat settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
© Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-490 N705AS (msn 29318) "Spirit of Alaska Statehood" (We're all pulling together) (State of Alaska) ANC (Michael B. Ing).