The Iditarod is a bit unusual in that the start of the race on Saturday is a ceremonial start. The reason is that there is no safe or practical way for mushers to traverse Knik arm, the Knik River and the Matanuska River. So the pageantry of the race start is held Saturday in Anchorage, but the real race doesn’t get rolling until Sunday afternoon in Willow.
That doesn’t bother Alaskans, and it is actually great for visitors. Thousands of people come to downtown Alaska and line the sidewalks of Fourth Avenue for the ceremonial start. The starting line is at 4th and D, and the area to the st of the starting line is called “the chute”. This is where the mushers park their trucks, harness their dogs, and get ready for the race. While it is certainly fun to watch the mushers head down the trail, the real action is back in the chute, where you can get up close and personal with the mushers and their dogs.
If you have a favorite musher, and you didn’t meet them at the banquet, this is a great place to get a photo and shake their hand – provided you get there early!
The first musher heads down 4th Avenue at 10 AM, with subsequent teams starting every two minutes. The starting order is decided in advance, with the first starters at the far end of the chute, and the last starters in the front. You’ll want to get downtown early – perhaps as early as 8 AM, if you want to see the initial preparations of some of the early starters.
One strategy that some guests choose is to get downtown early, meet the mushers, get some photos, and then stake out a spot along the Anchorage portion of the trail. The race starts downtown, but winds its way throughout the parks and greenbelts of town, and ends at Campbell Airstrip. There are lots of great viewing locations around town, and you can have many of them to yourself.
Most of the activities are over by about 2 PM… and this is good for both the mushers and for guests. Sunday at 2 PM the race starts for real, and it is nice to get a good meal, a good night’s sleep, and then head off to Willow on Sunday!
If you’re interested in having us arrange your Iditarod package, give us a call at (877) 692-5275 or +19073342888. Or you can go to our website and complete our form, and we’ll get back to you!