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Iron Dog racers will go the extra mile - and to Kotzebue - in 2020

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: August 4
  • Published August 3

Chris Olds, shown here at the start of the 2019 Iron Dog, is the race's two-time defending champion along with partner Mike Morgan. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Iron Dog snowmachine race will switch directions and add 375 miles by adding a loop that takes racers to Kotzebue in 2020.

The world’s longest snowmachine race will grow to 2,409 miles. And it will reverse course: Gone are the traditional Big Lake start and Fairbanks finish. Taking their place are a Fairbanks start and a Willow finish.

The extra mileage will add checkpoints in five villages: Buckland, Kotzebue, Noorvik, Kiana and Selawik.

“It’s really important to cultivate new blood, and the rural communities are going to shine,” executive director John Woodbury said.

“… Some of the most passionate fans are out there, and we’ve had quite a few champions from rural Alaska. You’re a hero when you roll into the town.”

He said the added loop mimics the Archie Ferguson-Willie Goodwin Memorial snowmachine race held every April on trails around Kotzebue.

The 37th edition of the Iron Dog starts Feb. 16 at Pike’s Landing in Fairbanks and ends Feb. 22 at the Willow Community Center.

Nome will continue to serve as the race’s halfway point and racers will still take a 24-hour layover there.

But the race is getting rid of another mandatory stop – the one that used to come in Manley, about 190 miles from the Fairbanks finish line, where racers routinely stopped for long stretches of time, in part to ensure the winner would reach Fairbanks during daylight hours.

“I hate to use the word ‘tame’ with the Iron Dog course, but the manufacturers have kind of tamed it to where we were holding people in Manley for 12 to 16 hours and it was unbearable,” Woodbury said. “That’s not racing.”

On the new course there will be a hold late in the race at Puntilla Lake, where officials will use their discretion when it comes to how long racers will stay.

“The hold is discretionary as far as times," Woodbury said. "It could be minutes, it could be no hold at all or it could be a 12-hour hold. It adds more riding time.”

Registration for the 2020 race runs through Oct. 31.

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