The first Iron Dog event started in 1984, in Big Lake following the Northern Route of the Historic Iditarod Trail to Nome. The event began as the “Iron Dog Iditarod,” but the name was quickly changed the next year to the “Gold Rush Classic.” In 1990, the race was organized as the “Iron Dog Gold Rush Classic” and it remained that way for a decade until Tesoro Corp. became a title sponsor. Beginning in 2008, the Alaska National Guard continuously held the top sponsor position until 2016.
The Iron Dog passes through than 28 communities across Alaska and engages hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers from across the state. From 2015 through 2016, the Anchorage community joined the party, hosting a two-day downtown start and celebration. It kicked off with the Flying Iron show on the first night and continued Saturday with the Pro Class start and a second Flying Iron Show.
Despite the festive addition of the Anchorage ceremonial start, Iron Dog opted in subsequent to move the race to Big Lake. But the advent of a massive Nov. 30, 2019 earthquake rendered the ice of Big Lake potentially unsafe for such large crowds. So the race was moved further north, to Deshka Landing in Willow. It continued on to Nome, as planned, and ended in Fairbanks along the Chena River.
In 2020, the Iron Dog course changes yet again – and it’s a big and exciting change. For the first time ever, the race will start in Fairbanks, include a roughly 375-mile loop in the Kotzebue area, reach Nome and then end back in Willow, at the Willow Community Center. This puts the race length at roughly 2,409 miles, and makes it the world’s longest snowmachine race. Participants must traverse through some of Alaska’s most remote and rugged terrain while confronting some the harshest winter conditions. Survival skills are essential, making it also the world’s toughest snowmachine race. All teams in Pro race classes consist of two persons and two snowmachines for safety. Recreational class riders can travel in larger groups.
The Iron Dog offers a non-competitive Recreational Class, giving adventure seekers an opportunity to travel roughly 1,400 miles – from Fairbanks, through the Kotzebue loop and on to Nome. These teams of two or more travel the same race trail as the Pro class teams, only ending the race a bit sooner.
Iron Dog, Inc. brings a world-class event across the state of Alaska each February, impacting more than 28 Alaska communities beginning with the “Iron Dog Safety Expo.” This Expo provides a unique winter recreational trade show that brings in industry vendors, promotes snowmachine safety and education through seminars, and a face-to-face opportunity for the fans and media to meet with notable Iron Dog athletes.
Iron Dog Routes over the years
|2015-2016||Anchorage – Big Lake – Nome – North Pole –Fairbanks||2,050*|
|2011 – 2014||Big Lake – Nome – North Pole –Fairbanks||2,031|
|2006 – 2010||Big Lake – Nome – Fairbanks||1,971|
|2005||Wasilla – Nome – Wasilla||2,000|
|1998 – 2004||Wasilla – Nome – Fairbanks||1,971|
|1993 – 1997||Wasilla – Nome – Wasilla||2,000|
|1984 – 1992||Wasilla - Nome||1,049|
|*19 miles of caution flag riding, 2,031 racing miles.|
Race event start includes fundraising activities, vendor booths and a patriotic celebration start. Nome marks the halfway point for the racers, and a finish for the recreational class. The Nome Halfway Banquet brings the race participants and fans together with celebration awards, tales from the trail, and prizes. Pro Class participants race into the Willow Community Center, chasing one of the many contingency awards based on many criteria, including the fastest team between two checkpoints crossing the finish line. Teams are held at Puntilla Lake in order to have the teams reach the checkered flag for a daylight finish.
Race participation has been averaging 30-35 Pro Class teams with an average of 15-22 Recreational Class riders.
Iron Dog is a proud leader in the snowmachine sports community, promoting snowmachine safety and outdoor education through trade shows, seminars and community events.