Downtown Anchorage hosts Iron Dog ceremonial start in 2015

by • February 4, 2015 • HighlightsComments (0)235

By Justin Matley

The world’s longest, toughest, snowmachine race is always exciting, and the 2014 match was no exception. But last year, when news was shared about a possible first-time-ever, downtown Anchorage start, it was a little hard to focus on the race in motion while daydreaming about the year ahead. After three decades of racing, an Anchorage start is one of the biggest developments Iron Dog has ever known, up there with the 1998 addition of Fairbanks as the race finish.
Now, after much planning and community support, Iron Dog has made good on their plans, adding another of Alaska’s largest communities to the course. For 2015, spectators and supporters can experience a more festive and approachable Iron Dog than ever before. All we need to do is show up in downtown Anchorage on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 20-21, and share in Iron Dog’s excitement for this monumental improvement.
Largely spearheaded by Iron Dog’s executive director Kevin Kastner, the Anchorage start has been brewing since 2010, with a massive effort to gain official cooperation and approval during the latter half of 2014.
“There’s been quite a few months of buildup to this, of course, so once we got the full approval from not only the municipality but JBER, the (Alaska) Railroad and the Port of Anchorage, yeah, we were really excited from both the perspective of the board and staff, and to a degree the racers have been real supportive,” Kastner says. “They recognize that it brings additional attention not only to the race but to them and their supporters.”
A benefit to the new start location is improved accessibility. Fans from all around the Anchorage Bowl, and those flying in from outside Alaska, can finally get a firsthand sense of the action and meet the race teams without braving the long drive to Big Lake. As for the racers, a ceremonial start means a bit of fun for them, too.
Spectators will find the Iron Dog teams more available and approachable. As Kastner puts it, they’ll be in a “non-race mode” compared to the Big Lake start when teams are keenly focused on race preparations and visualizing what they’ll encounter down the trail. Kastner also emphasizes just how much of an improvement the downtown Anchorage start will be for sponsors and volunteers.
“Everyone will be able to duck into a local business to get warm, grab a hot bite to eat, have a coffee or beer, and relax and have a great time,” he said.
Iron Dog organizers expect a lot more participation on all fronts. But if accessibility, firsthand experience and comfort amenities aren’t enough to entice a bigger crowd, then perhaps the additional festivities are. Iron Dog has a lot more to offer than a parade of snowmachines.
“Maybe some people aren’t interested in cross-country snowmachine racing but they’re interested in vintage races, the kids’ Iron Pup 120 race, or the freestyle show with X-Games riders showing another snowmachine extreme,” Kastner says. “From a spectator standpoint, it’s more exciting and will appeal to a broader audience.”
According to Iron Dog, fans also can expect plenty of hospitality from sponsors and vendors, food, T-shirt giveaways, and other fun.
As for any drawbacks to hosting in Downtown, there aren’t many. Of course people will need to navigate to the best parking options (watch for parking promotions from EasyPark and additional signage), and there are additional concerns with snowmachines or other moving vehicles involved with the race, and road closures and how that might affect certain businesses has been taken into consideration.
Fortunately, downtown Anchorage, including the Mayor’s Office, businesses and nearby residents are no strangers to hosting enormous events. Anchorage will now have a Triple Crown of knockout events to spark spring tourism and the economy. Iron Dog, followed closely behind by Fur Rondy and then the Iditarod, should make for some exciting, fun-filled weeks. Combined with Anchorage Centennial celebration activities, Anchorage, at 100 years old, looks to be ushering in a new era of tourism and prosperity. Visit Anchorage president and CEO Julie Saupe had already reported an increase in tourism and visitations to Anchorage in late-2014 even prior to new events and expos, and the prospects for continued growth through these events is promising. ■

Starting Line Events
If you’re looking for a little more action to please your entire family, Iron Dog, in cooperation with other organizations such as Mat-Su Vintage Racing Club and Alaska Motor Mushers Club, and sponsors like Hard Rock Café and EasyPark, have a few things in store to liven up the moments before and after the releasing of the race teams. Enjoy the festive mood on two separate days.
Friday Evening, Feb. 20
7 p.m.
The first Flying Iron freestyle show will kick off in downtown Anchorage. If you love watching freestyle exhibitions you’ll have another chance to see the show on the following day after the Iron Dog Start.
Saturday, Feb. 21
10 a.m.
Vintage snowmobile “Shine & Show” and Iron Pup kids in front of Hard Rock Café. Racers must be positioned at the race pit.
10 a.m.
Meet and greet the Pro Class racers.
10:30 a.m.
Mat-Su Vintage Racing Club’s vintage snowmobile parade.
11:00 a.m.
Closing of the pit area.
11:30 a.m.
Color Guard, National Anthem and announcements.
12:10 p.m.
First Green Flag drops for the first team
1:45 p.m.
AMMC’s Iron Pup Kids Parade
2:30 p.m.
Flying Iron freestyle show at the EasyPark Coho parking lot (Third Avenue & E Street).
An after party will be held at Hard Rock Café, and spectators can expect music, vendor hospitality, prizes and gifts, food and fun activities mixed with the scheduled events.

2015_ID_AnchorageMap_Final2

Race Restart
in Big Lake

If you missed out on the Anchorage ceremonial start, you’ll have one more opportunity to wave the racers off on their journey. Iron Dog rolls up its sleeves and gets down to business on Sunday, Feb. 22, in Big Lake, on the lake. Race teams will be released in succession starting at 10 a.m. As in past years, each team can be watched as they speed away across icy Big Lake before vanishing into the Alaska wilderness.
Fans won’t find as much of a festive atmosphere as compared to the Anchorage start, but they will see the serious side of the race teams and witness their anticipation to compete.

Sunday, Feb. 22
8 a.m.
Teams must be parked on the ice and start unloading. (Don’t be late!)
9 a.m.
Race teams must be positioned at the start in the race pit.
9:45 a.m.
Color Guard, National Anthem and announcements.
10 a.m.
First Green Flag drops and continues in two-minute intervals.
12:30 p.m.
End of the restart. (Time to pack up for Nome and Fairbanks.)

Big-Lake-Start-Map-Overview

Fairbanks-Finish-Map-Overview

ID_2015_Checkpoint-Map

Northbound
Anchorage to Big Lake…………..19
Big Lake to Skwentna…………….79
Skwentna to Shell Lake………….17
Shell Lake to Puntilla……………..55
Puntilla to Rohn……………………..75
Rohn to Nikolai………………………74
Nikolai to McGrath…………………52
McGrath to Ophir…………………..63
Ophir to Poorman…………………..99
Poorman to Ruby…………………..72
Ruby to Galena………………………52
Galena to Kaltag…………………….98
Kaltag to Unalakleet………………95
Unalakleet to Shaktoolik………..41
Shaktoolik to Koyuk………………57
Koyuk to White Mountain………94
White Mtn to Nome………………..75
Northbound Mileage……………..1,108
Southbound to Fairbanks
Nome to White Mountain……….75
White Mtn to Koyuk……………….94
Koyuk to Shaktoolik………………57
Shaktoolik to Unalakleet………..41
Unalakleet to Kaltag………………95
Kaltag to Galena…………………….98
Galena to Ruby………………………52
Ruby to Tanana………………………120
Tanana to Manley…………………..69
Manley to Nenana………………….110
Nenana to North Pole…………….77
North Pole to Fairbanks…………35
Total Mileage………………………….2,050*
*19 miles of caution flag riding with
2,031 of racing miles.

Meet teams, win prizes!
Donlin Gold Safety Expo wishes
racers good luck, celebrates the race

As a free, public event the Iron Dog Safety Expo, sponsored by Donlin Gold, gives fans another opportunity to be a part of the action. Unlike the ceremonial start, the Safety Expo puts teams on display indoors and up-close. From 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, fans are afforded the opportunity to not only talk to teams and wish them luck, but also to inspect their sleds, see the required gear spread out and partake in event highlights. You might even go home with some new swag or a snowmachine.
Held at Cabela’s for the first time, the Iron Dog Safety Expo will host event and team sponsors, vendors offering special deals, even door prizes. Enter to win a snowmachine, complements of Holiday fuel stations, Rockstar Energy Drinks and Team CC Ski-Doo. And, use the expo as an opportunity to purchase Iron Dog Raffle tickets (drawings to be held Feb. 28) to win a Toyota Tundra TRD Off-road 4×4, CFMOTO Z6 side-by-side, aluminum tilt trailer from White Spruce Trailer Sales and other great prizes.
Participants at the Safety Expo can even brush up on their winter safety skills with riding and snowmachine rescue training provided free of charge. Enjoy food, drinks and entertainment as well.
Safety is the theme of this annual event, and by the time the public pours through the doors at Cabela’s, every Iron Dog racer will have completed a prerace inspection of their safety and survival gear. They’ll be given a green light to compete in the world’s longest, toughest snowmachine race.
To show your support.
WHEN: 4-8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 18
WHERE:  Cabela’s of Anchorage, 155 W. 104th Ave., Anchorage
WHO: This is a free, public event hosted by Iron Dog and sponsored by Donlin Gold with vendors and race teams included.
Iron Dog Safety Expo Vendors, Donlin Gold, Alaska National Guard, Kendall Toyota, XPS Lubricants, NAOI (North America Outdoor Institute), KLIM, Allstate, And more!

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