It’s been widely regarded as snowmobile racing’s toughest challenge of man and machine. It crisscrosses the unforgiving backcountry terrain of Alaska, often in weather double digits below zero Fahrenheit. Competitors need to carry survival gear, axes and more. It historically covers more than 2,000 miles, connecting Anchorage, Nome and Fairbanks.
And, apparently, it’s all just gotten too damn easy!
The host committee for Alaska’s famed Iron Dog recently opened up registration for the 37th running of the event, and with that announced that the course would undergo two major changes for 2020:
- The event will run backwards this year, with the two-person teams starting in the Fairbanks area and ending in Willow, Alaska, north of Anchorage instead of the usual tradition of ending in Fairbanks.
- The race course will also include a new loop that follows the course of another famous snowmobile race when it’s in the far west, adding 327 miles to the ground that racers need to cover.
All totalled, that boosts the total territory covered to 2,409 miles of some of the toughest terrain around! Yeah, it was clearly just a sissy race when it was only 2,000 miles, now we’ll get to see who the real competitors are?!
Below is the press release from the Iron Dog.
Miles And Checkpoints Added To The ‘World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race’
ANCHORAGE – Registration opens today for the World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race. Iron Dog 2020 officially kicks off August 1 and this year’s event has a bevy of exciting changes, including more miles than ever before and a reversal in course direction.
This year’s cross-country snowmachine race across Alaska starts Feb. 16, 2020 at Pike’s Landing in Fairbanks and finishes Feb. 22 at the Willow Community Center. The route effectively reverses the traditional course used in year’s past, and with a loop north from Koyuk toward Kotzebue then back to Nome, racers will travel a total of 2,409 miles in the 37th running of the Iron Dog.
“The Iron Dog board of directors this year is an innovative bunch that likes to keep the race as fresh as possible,” says executive director John Woodbury. “They wanted to add more excitement to the 2020 event, and keep Iron Dog focused on the art of racing. More reliable and efficient machines and racers meant that more time was being spent in the checkpoints and at holds. The board wanted to put the emphasis back onto the trail, and sought to increase the seat time for the racers, hence the added 375 miles north of Koyuk.”
The added loop mimics the Archie Ferguson-Willie Goodwin Memorial snowmachine race staged around Kotzebue each April.
“It’s a proven and challenging course, and thanks to our good friends in Kotzebue and surrounding villages, we’ve got a virtual army of qualified volunteers we can just plug into. They have their course down pat,” Woodbury said. “While it’s a first-ever addition to the Iron Dog, I am confident it will be one of the most well-run legs of the race. 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 efforts helping stage this race.”
The Kotzebue loops adds another 375 miles to the course, and follows much of the Archie Ferguson/Willie Goodwin Memorial snowmachine race course. Added checkpoints for 2020 include Buckland, Kotzebue, Noorvik, Kiana and Selawik. The Willow finish line is also a new venue for the Iron Dog.
Woodbury added that the Interior start and Southcentral finish will add another exciting fold to the race.
“Fairbanks has always given Iron Dog such a warm reception as a finish line venue, and they have some stellar ideas for the 2020 start,” he said. “Starting in Fairbanks, it changes everything as far as training and strategy for the racers. In one sense, it levels the playing field as far as veterans and rookies are concerned. The old goats will still have their deep well of experience to draw from, but with the 180-degree difference in the course, some of the up-and-comers really have a chance to cause some upsets this year.”
With registration opening Aug. 1, racers can better plan for their February endeavor.
“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.”
The first 15 racer teams who complete their paperwork and pay before Sept. 1 also qualify to draw from the first seed of starting positions (starting positions 1 through 15). Once we hit sept 1, the rest of the racers will draw from an open pool of starting positions.
Registration closes Oct. 31, 2019.
Also new for the 2020 Iron Dog are a fresh slate of board members. With new members recently elected to the board of directors, there is a solid mix of institutional knowledge and fresh new ideas, said Iron Dog board President Roger Brown.
“The 2020 race is going to have more rural representation on the board than we’ve had in many years, and adding the Kotzebue loop brings the Iron Dog into even more communities,” says Brown of North Pole. “Add to that the diversity of the board – we’ve got Pro and Recreational class riders on the board, members from Fairbanks, Kiana, Kotzebue, Nome, Southcentral – it’s just a well-rounded board that is genuinely interested in the communities we visit. Their experience on the trail, and more importantly their experiences within the communities, really brings a lot to staging another successful Iron Dog. I’m excited for the 2020 race and new route. It’s going to be a great year for racing.”
The Iron Dog board is comprised of the following members: Roger Brown, North Pole, President; Doug Dixon, Anchorage, Vice President; Keith Manternach, Anchorage, Treasurer; Jake Goodell, Anchorage, Secretary; Ginny Emmons, Nome; Steve Mattila, Anchorage; Micah Huss, Big Lake; Dennis Falldorf, Anchorage; Unch Schuerch, Wasilla; Danny Gueco, Wasilla; Howard Thies, Fairbanks; Dusty VanMeter, Kasilof; Claude Wilson, Kotzebue.
To register, or for more information, please browse www.irondog.org.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.