It’s safety first
Donlin Gold Safety Expo doublechecks racers’ preparedness, gives spectators a chance to meet the teams
By MELISSA DEVAUGHN
THE IRON DOG SNOWMACHINE RACE is an unforgiving challenge for even the toughest of riders. But for those who have crossed that finish line – or have been beaten back and now can’t resist the challenge of chasing that dream – it’s a race that is a bit addictive, too.
That’s why race organizers stress – beyond winning, money, name recognition or any other prize – safety. Sponsors of Iron Dog reiterate that tenet, too, said John Woodbury, Iron Dog’s executive director.
“Our primary concern is safety,” Woodbury said. “We will not start this race if the race marshals deem it unsafe to continue, which has happened in the past in the form of delays and checkpoint holds. It’s a high-speed competition that crosses through some of Alaska’s most difficult backcountry, so there will always be inherent dangers. We work with everyone along the trial to gain as much local knowledge as possible to trim as many of the dangerous variables as possible. But, every team is going to experience at least one scary moment over these 2,000 miles. We all just hope it only makes for another tale from the trail and nothing more serious.”
One of the best ways to be safe is to be prepared, and that’s what the Donlin Gold Safety Expo is all about. Here is where all of the sled and gear inspections take place, and where lay-spectators can gain a true appreciation of what all is needed to traverse Alaska’s wilds by snowmachine.
Did you know, for instance, that there are more than 30 required items that racers must carry or use, including 25 feet of 1,200-pound test rope, arctic stove with fuel, fire-starting materials, backup eye and face protection, and an assortment of spare parts for the sled.
From the moment the racers leave the chute at Deshka Landing, until they are safely at the finish in Fairbanks, there are countless ways in which they put themselves at risk – and the Safety Expo helps reiterate the ways in which they can stay safe. It’s the Donlin way, Woodbury said.
In fact, he added, “One of our most inspiring sponsors is Donlin Gold. Not only have they been a dedicated and notable supporter of the race for years, their motto of ‘every person going home safe and healthy every day’ is a motto we’ve unofficially adopted at Iron Dog. Their attitude and message is so applicable to what we do here.”
The safety message is consistently delivered and ever evolving when or if the need arises, said Iron Dog’s Sarah Miller, one of the lead coordinators behind the annual race.
“If there are any areas we are unsure of, the race marshals will dictate a mandatory race route to keep all riders as safe as possible on the trail,” she added.
Woodbury said trail crews are keeping a watchful eye on race conditions to ensure smooth sailing – or as smooth as a cross Alaska fast-speed chase can be expected to go – ahead.
“The earthquake and slothy freeze of the Southcentral lakes and rivers have created some unique problems,” he said. “We’ve had pro teams take unplanned dips in rivers during early-season training, and there are lingering concerns about lake ice. But, the foremost mission of Iron Dog is to stage a safe race, and in 2019 we plan to uphold that unblemished tradition.”
And, while safety is the overriding theme of the Expo – it also is meant to be a prerace celebration of the days to come. To add to the festivities, organizers will have special deals, Iron Dog gear and the annual raffle ticket sale, which this year awards a half acre of land at Point Mackenzie and a tiny home for the winning ticket holder (not to mention a long list of additional prizes – see our story on this page for more).
Tickets are $60 and winners will be announced April 2.
2019 Donlin Gold Safety Expo
WHEN: 1-8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15
WHERE: Menard Sports Center, Wasilla
WHO: This is a free, public event hosted by Iron Dog and sponsored by Donlin Gold with vendors and race teams included. Learn how to become a safer outdoors person. All of the Pro class snowmachines will be on display, and racers will be on hand to meet and greet. RAFFLE
TICKETS: Enter to win door prizes and refresh your winter skill while there. Raffl e tickets are $60. Go to www.irondog.org or call 907-563-4414 for ticket locations near you. EXPO
VENDORS: Donlin Gold, Rain Proof Roofi ng, Monster, City of Wasilla, Alaska Spine Institute, Johnson Investments, Spenard Builders Supply, Hatcher Pass Polaris, White Spruce Trailer Sales, Alaska Specialty Equipment – Bailey’s, Team CC, Amsoil, KLIM, Guardian Flight, Army Reserves, LifeMed, ABC RV, Woody’s, Subway, Lead Dog Helmet Lights, Helmets on Heads and many more!