by Iditarod Team
Today, June 28th,2020, the Iditarod announced that 57 mushers have submitted their entries for the 49th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to be held in March of 2021. This number represents 17 more or a 42.5% higher number than was submitted at this time last year.
In the spirit of social consciousness, the Iditarod created a virtual process in lieu of the musher sign ups at Iditarod Headquarters traditionally held on the last Saturday in June. Additionally, in order to mitigate the economic impact from reduced summer tourism, the Iditarod has reduced its entry fees and created the Pike Dogs First Wellness Initiative, made possible by a donation from David Pike, to provide funding for veterinary expenses.
“Although there continues to be a struggle with a global pandemic, economic hardships and social unrest, the Iditarod is the embodiment of resolve and continues to anticipate change while still doubling down on the integrity, spirit and self-reliance of the race. With considerably more mushers entered at sign up day than last year we hope that we can provide unifying inspiration,” said Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach.
Today’s entrants include 15 rookies. International teams include teams from Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and France. The majority of mushers hail from Alaska, however, the states of Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin are represented as well.
Current Iditarod champion Thomas Waerner, four-time champions Martin Buser, Jeff King, and Dallas Seavey, along with 2019 champion Pete Kaiser, and 2018 Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, will join a deep field of veteran finishers and an impressive lineup of international long-distance race teams.
Iditarod organizers have been preparing for the 2021 race since the 2020 race ended in March. Iditarod Race Director, Mark Nordman explained how the race is moving in 2021.
“Even before there was a single COVID-19 case in Alaska and before the start of the 2020 Iditarod, the ITC proactively engaged with Alaska’s health care leaders, state government officials, and rural community leaders in contingency planning. With an emerging COVID-19 pandemic, our primary goals were to protect our rural community checkpoints, and all involved in the race, including rural residents, mushers, and volunteers. We overcame a number of logistical challenges and we were fortunate enough to finish the race in Nome.”
Nordman added that, “Today, we are focused on executing the 2021 race with hyper-sensitivity to the pandemic. We are expanding our plan development to include those we consulted with during the 2020 race, as well as a broader community of state and rural health safety responders. In an effort to ensure the safest path through this pandemic for the Last Great Race we are modeling three tiers of contingencies that correspond to a range of future COVID status predictions. There are many factors to consider, and we will make our best effort to provide the safest event possible in this changing environment.”