The “other” sled dog race in Alaska is the Iditarod. Like the Yukon Quest, mushers have been slow to sign up to run in 2023. As of last week, 34 mushers had committed to race. Only one year had such a low number, and that was the first year in 1973.
Several factors have entered into the low number, but the price tag to train a team of dogs right now seems to be the driving factor. The price of gasoline, dog food, and even straw has gone up considerably this past year. A team of 45 dogs can go through six pallets of dog food a year. The average price of a pallet of food has increased by $700 in Alaska, if you train on the road system.
Legends of the sport are also seeing their careers wind down. Jeff King, Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Martin Buser have won a total of 17 races among them, yet none of them have signed up to run in 2023.
The past ten years have seen an average of 64 mushers at the starting line, and 2016 had 85 mushers in the field.
The race to Nome will follow the southern route through the abandoned mining town, and race namesake, Iditarod. Then through Anvike and north to Kaltag, where it rejoins the main trail to Nome.
The ceremonial start in Anchorage is set for March 4, with the restart in Willow the following day.