Two-time Iditarod runner up Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers moved to the remote Alaska community of Bettles, above the Arctic Circle, after college to work in biology. She adopted six dogs and decided to give mushing a try. Little did she know that some 20 years later, she would be one of the top dog mushers in the world and one of the best women ever in her sport. While Zirkle's drive has made her a model for many young women across the country, she didn’t start mushing because of feminist leanings. "I never got into dog mushing for any gender-specific reason," says Zirkle. She did it for the love of her dogs and the satisfaction of training and competing, she said.
In 2000, Zirkle became the first woman to win the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. But there hasn’t been a female Iditarod champion since Susan Butcher in 1990, and a win for Zirkle in the other big race would surely be a win for all the women and girls out there trying to prove themselves in a sport often dominated by men.
Watch all of the videos from our musher profile series, see slideshows from the trail and more on our Iditarod multimedia page. See this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great voices from the Last Frontier. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.