Anchorage to host world’s toughest snowmachine race
BY JOY SULLIVAN
The Iron Dog start is moving to Anchorage.
After more than 18 months of hard work and at least three years of dreaming up the idea to grow the event into something more than a cross-country race, Iron Dog executive director Kastner said the event will now begin on the streets of downtown Anchorage. The festivities are scheduled to begin the evening Feb. 20, 2015, and continue all day on Feb. 21, 2015.
The change is a long time in the making, beginning after Kastner joined Iron Dog in late 2010. Anchorage has no shortage of great restaurants, accommodations, and entertainment options. The city of Anchorage, he said, will be a great component for growth for the Iron Dog.
“The genesis of the idea came out of a vision statement I presented to the Iron Dog Board of Directors in the summer of 2010,” Kastner said in a press release about the event. “With the addition of Anchorage, I believe we are making a great contribution to a refreshed legacy of winter tourism and starting a new chapter for motorsports and snowmachining advocacy. You’ll often hear me say the Iron Dog is much more than a race, and I believe this just the beginning.”
Kastner said the driving force behind moving the location is the need to give greater visibility to sponsors and promote a positive image of motorsports in the urban areas of Alaska.
To make something like this happen it takes a lot of piecing-together of puzzle pieces, he added.
Around mid-November, Iron Dog received word from Mayor Dan Sullivan’s office that the plan was a “go.” Other individuals and groups helped as well, he said, including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Base Commander, EasyPark, Alaska Railroad Corp., Visit Anchorage, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, The Port of Anchorage, Anchorage Assembly members Dick Traini, Ernie Hall, Bill Starr and others, the many departments of the Municipality (traffic, police, fire, maintenance, risk management, etc.), Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park, Eklutna Corp., Wells Fargo, Hilton, Hard Rock Cafe, Odom Corp., and many other downtown businesses.
“We are truly grateful for the support,” said Jim Wilke, president of the Iron Dog board of directors. “This is a strong endorsement of what we stand for.”
It’s important to recognize that many things have changed – not just the location this year. Most notable is the compressed schedule of 10 days from pre-race events to the finish-line in Fairbanks.
Why the tight schedule? The primary goals were to make more events accessible to more people. Sponsors and racers from rural Alaska or outside Alaska are now able to save a couple of days travel time and do more while they are here. In the past, the Tech Inspection and Donlin Gold Safety Expo was a full weekend before the start of the race, but visitors could never justify the long stay for both that event and the race start.
“Now, instead of only coming for one of two days around the expo, we hope they will come mid-week and stay through the weekend,” Kastner said.
The tentative schedule for the 2015 Iron Dog schedule follows, although Kastner stressed that with several months to go, specific hours of events are subject to change pending final plans and logistics.
Feb. 18, 2015: Donlin Gold Expo (4-8 p.m., Cabela’s)
The Donlin Gold Iron Dog Expo is being held inside Cabela’s with all the pro-class racers and their race sleds in the store to meet and greet fans, supporters and shoppers. There will be a series of safety training programs that evening as well as plenty of sponsors, door prizes and special deals from Cabela’s.
Feb. 19, 2015: Annual Hall of Fame Induction and Racer Drawing Banquet (6-10 p.m., Marriott Anchorage)
This event is the same format as the 2014 event, in its second year at the Marriott location.
Feb. 20, 2015: Trail Class Start 10 a.m.-noon, Big Lake)
The format will be the same as the last five years, with trail-class racers leaving from the popular Big Lake location, beginning at 10 a.m.
Feb. 20, 2015: Flying Iron Freestyle Show
(6-8 p.m., downtown Anchorage)
This is a new event for 2015. Watch as X-Games riders Cory Davis, Joe Parsons, Sam Rogers and local rider Timmy Beckner perform a free-to-the-public show in downtown Anchorage with expected plans for an event following at Hard Rock Cafe. Details are still brewing on this one, but expect that Verizon, Rockstar and Hard Rock Cafe will be the primary partners in the Flying Iron Show.
Feb. 21, 2015: Ceremonial start of the Iron Dog
(10 a.m.-5 p.m., Anchorage)
With a Downtown street closure similar to Iditarod or Fur Rondy, Iron Dog will have a series of events and the Ceremonial Start of the 2015 Iron Dog on Fourth Avenue. A rough outline of the schedule for the day includes:
9:30-10:30 a.m.: Meet pro teams in the pits.
Shine and show of Vintage and 120cc kid’s snowmachines (near 4th and E St).
10:15 a.m.: Mat-Su Vintage Snowmachine Racers Club will fire up the vintage sleds and make a parade lap from Fourth Avenue to First Avenue, via E Street. They will park again and stick around for show and tell, shine and show judging.
11:30 a.m.: Iron Dog ceremonies begin. Announcements, color guard, sponsor recognitions, National Anthem, etc. Live T.V. coverage begins shortly before noon.
Noon: First pro class team leaves downtown, following Fourth Avenue to E Street to First Avenue to C Street, out to the Port of Anchorage, across Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and ending near the Birchwood Airport in Chugiak. Viewing locations and details to be announced.
2 p.m.: Iron Pup. The 120cc kids run a parade route from Fourth Avenue, similar to the vintage show.
3 p.m.: The second Flying Iron show and last event of the day. Cory Davis is not expected in this show, because he will be in the Iron Dog start.
5 p.m.: Events wrap up for the day.
Feb. 22, 2015: Restart of the Iron Dog (10 a.m.-noon, Big Lake)
The race goes back to Big Lake for the “race day” start in the same location near Southport Marina that Iron Dog has been departing from for the last five years. Expect crowds and some emphasis on local “Valley” area sponsors like MTA, HPAK, Team CC and Big Lake Powersports. Overall, the setup will remain the same as it has been, but with slightly less fanfare: no live broadcast or the large scaffold archway.
Then it is back to the standard Iron Dog race schedule of the halfway banquet in Nome on Feb. 25, 2015, and the finish in downtown Fairbanks on Feb. 28, 2015. Stay tuned for some incremental improvements on these events, too.
Today’s Iron Dog course is more than 2,000 miles long, from Anchorage to Nome and finishing in Fairbanks, making it the world’s longest snowmachine race. Participants must traverse areas of Alaska’s most remote and rugged terrain while confronting some of the harshest winter conditions. Survival skills are essential, making it the world’s toughest snowmachine race.
For more information visit www.irondog.org. The Iron Dog is part of the history and culture of Alaska, and SnowRider Magazine encourages its readers to get out there and show their support to Kastner and the Iron Dog teams. As usual, SnowRider will be filing updates from the trail.