By Shannon Longworth (Reporter), Stacey Chamberlain (Producer), Dan Reardon (Editor)
Ryan Redington has won the 51st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Redington’s father, Joe Redington Sr., was one of the founders of the race.
Alaska’s 1,000-mile race begins in Willow, Alaska, and ends in Nome. The 2023 event hosted the smallest field of mushers yet.
“33 mushers is a low end, but it’ll come back, it’ll bounce back,” musher Matthew Failor said. “We might not see 80 or 90 mushers like we used to. But dog mushing isn’t going to go anywhere.”
“If you look at our short-distance races that many of the young people love to do in communities all along the circumpolar and you look at the mid-distance races that are still really growing, we see a lot of possibility and promise,” Iditarod Trail Committee Chief Operations Officer Chas St. George said.
“People rally around it—especially here in Alaska, but I mean I was signing autographs for people from New Zealand and Ireland and Switzerland and Ohio and Illinois and Iowa,” 2022 Iditarod champion Brent Sass said. “It was crazy, the amount of people that come from all over the world to see this event,” he said.
The race, which lasts more than a week, can be treacherous.
“I feel like I’ve seen a lot, but every time you do it, something else comes up, something else arises,” Failor said. “I’ve been through storms, open water, there was a moose on the trail that was trying to agitate the dogs last year.”
For some mushers, just completing the race without any assistance is an achievement.
“I’m running a puppy team—2-year-olds. My job is to make sure that those puppy teams have a good thousand-mile experience,” musher Gerhardt Thiart said.
For the winner, there’s a little more than $50,000 in prize money, which helps cover the cost of caring for the dogs.
“This is a labor of love—we don’t do this for the money,” Sass said. “If I was going to say that I raced for money, that would be a flat-out lie. I do this because I have a passion for sled dogs, I do this because I have a passion for my lifestyle. I do this because I love the dogs.”