Dog mushers of the Far North tend to travel with as little extra weight and gear as possible, particularly when they're racing for big race jackpots and lucrative sponsorship opportunities. But when legendary Denali Park musher Jeff King announces new race gear, people take notice.
King announced Tuesday via Facebook that he'd be donning a protective helmet this year as he makes his way through the notorious Dalzell Gorge area of the Iditarod Trail between the Rainy Pass and Rohn checkpoints of the sled dog race, set to start this weekend.
Why head gear?
Look no further than the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Fairbanks to Whitehourse, Yukon, which recently wrapped up. Eureka musher Brent Sass had been a serious contender to win the 1,000-mile distance race when he fell off his sled and suffered a race-ending head injury.
Within days Sass had announced he'd wear a helmet in the Iditarod. And within days of that he withdrew from this year's race from Willow to Nome.
King is a perennial contender in "The Last Great Race" and has four Iditarod wins under his fur hat. Or helmeted fur hat.
As of Tuesday afternoon a few other mushers had commented on King's Facebook timeline that they too might consider wearing protective gear.
Trail conditions may be a factor in this year's race, with little snow and lots of ice expected along the Southcentral portion of the trail route into the Alaska Range.