Alaska News

Fairbanks musher Ken Anderson captures Kobuk 440

Veteran Fairbanks musher Ken Anderson crossed the finish line in Kotzebue at midday Sunday to capture the Kobuk 440, the last race of the season for distance racers.

Despite a top prize of $12,000 from a purse of $50,000, the race attracted just 10 teams, one of the smallest fields in race history. The veteran Anderson, 12th in last month's Iditarod, won in 45 hours, 47 minutes, edging Scott Smith by 10 minutes. Smith, who earned $9,000 for finishing second, notched the race of his career. In three Iditarods, he's never placed higher than 34th.

Sigrid Ekran, who was a career-best 11th in the Iditarod a few weeks ago, finished third in the Kobuk, some 81 minutes behind Smith. She took home $7,400.

Typically, the Kobuk 440 offers mushers an array of conditions, including heat, snow, wind, open water and sub-zero evenings.

"I'm most excited to see a part of Alaska that I've never seen before and to get to see it for myself with a dog team, which is my favorite way," rookie musher Darrin Lee told the Arctic Sounder.

In addition to Kotzebue, the race passes through the Northwest Alaska villages of Noorvik, Kiana, Selawik, Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk.

"I've only missed two years out of the last 12 or so for the trip up there, and I look forward to this race all year long," Anderson wrote on his website before the race. "By now the team is really hardened and able to handle the long 80-90 mile runs we do in the race. Last year I led the first half but slowed down towards the end and wound up finishing second to Pete Kaiser, who ran a great race.

"Hopefully we can end the season on a big note. I still don't think the team has peaked yet this year and hopefully it will happen this race."

Mike Campbell

Mike Campbell was a longtime editor for Alaska Dispatch News, and before that, the Anchorage Daily News.