The race is on: What to know about the 2024 Iditarod

A dog team runs through the snow
Hunter Keefe’s team approaches Grayling along the Yukon River during the 2023 Iditarod. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The 2024 Iditarod kicks off Saturday with a ceremonial start in Anchorage followed by an official race start in Willow on Sunday.

From there, 38 mushers and as many as 608 sled dogs will make the 1,000-mile trek to Nome.

Here’s what to know about this year’s race:

When will the Iditarod start?

The Iditarod begins, not so much as a race, but more like a sled dog parade with the 11-mile ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, March 2.

The mushers start getting their teams ready downtown early Saturday. Then, starting at 10 a.m., they set off, one-by-one every couple minutes from Fourth Avenue near D Street. The untimed run through Anchorage takes them down city streets and onto the trail system, ending at Campbell Airstrip.

There are plenty of places to watch from. Those include hotspots like downtown, the hill on Cordova Street near 15th Avenue and the Trailgate party in the Eastchester Park area.

a dog team races down a crowded street
Jason Mackey and his team of dogs mush through Fourth Avenue for the 2023 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Next on the agenda: the official race start Sunday in Willow

After the ceremonial start, mushers truck their dog teams north for the official start at 2 p.m. on Willow Lake. Again, they’ll leave in two-minute intervals, beginning their journey to Nome in 

What’s the trail route this year?

It’s an even year, so the Iditarod is on its northern route. That means when the teams reach the ghost town checkpoint of Ophir about 350 miles into the race, they’ll turn north to get to the Cripple checkpoint and then the village of Ruby on the Yukon River. They stay on the Yukon headed west to Galena and then Kaltag, where the northern and southern routes rejoin. From there, it’s about 350 miles to the finish line in Nome.

A race map
A map of the 2024 Iditarod race route. (

How are trail conditions? 

It sounds like a little bit of everything. Race Director Mark Nordman said there is plenty of snow south of the Alaska Range and headed into the Dalzell Gorge from the Rainy Pass checkpoint. But after Rohn, in the Farewell Burn area, there are miles of bare ground, Nordman said.

It’s common to see dirt and rocks on that section of trail, and while the lack of snow coverage means the mushers and their sleds will take a beating, the dogs tend to take advantage of the good footing, he said.

“They are slugging and working away with all their muscles getting over the Alaska Range, and then it’s all of a sudden running on dirt and frozen ground, and so they just take off,” Nordman said. (Check out this video footage of the snow-less stretch of trail between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints, posted by veteran musher DeeDee Jonwrowe, who was on a snowmachine.)

Beyond Nikolai, Nordman said, there’s good snow coverage, but there is some question about a section of trail that passes over sea ice on the edge of Norton Bay near Elim, roughly 850 miles into the race. Mid-winter storms have broken up the ice, and the race might need to be rerouted to go overland on an old mail route, he said.

Who’s competing in this year’s race?

There are three champions returning this year, including reigning champ Ryan Redington, five-time champ Dallas Seavey – returning after taking a year off in 2023 – and Pete Kaiser, who’s raced it every year since 2010 and is coming off his eighth Kuskokwim 300 victory. Kaiser and Redington have each won the Iditarod once, while Seavey is looking to break a tie with Rick Swenson for the most Iditarod wins ever.

A musher in a black jacket
Dallas Seavey has won the Iditarod five times so far, his last victory was in 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Other likely contenders for top-10 finishes are Jessie Holmes, Jessie Royer, Matt Hall, Matt Failor, Aaron Burmeister, Nicolas Petit, Mille Porsild, Travis Beals and Paige Drobny.

Nobody in this year’s Iditarod has run it more than Burmeister, with 21 finishes, or Royer, with 20.

There are also 16 Iditarod rookies this year, racing along with 22 veterans.

What happened with the disqualified mushers? 

It’s complicated.

Separate accusations of violence against women derailed the Iditarod dreams of both Eddie Burke Jr., the race’s 2023 Rookie of the Year, and its 2022 champion, Brent Sass.

In Burke’s case, he had been charged with a felony domestic violence assault in 2022. It’s unclear if the Iditarod knew about the charge ahead of the 2023 race, but the case remained unresolved heading into this year’s competition.

The Iditarod announced Feb. 19, it was disqualifying Burke under the race’s Rule 53, which deals with musher conduct. On Feb. 23, the state Department of Law said it was dropping the charges, because the alleged victim in the case had “declined to participate in the prosecution.” That same day, the Iditarod announced Burke had been reinstated. Then, on Feb. 26, Burke said he was withdrawing, because, in the meantime, he had leased dogs from his team to other Iditarod mushers.

The Iditarod disqualified Sass on Feb. 22 amid allegations of sexual assault contained in a letter sent to race officials nearly four months earlier and about a week after reporters with Alaska Public Media, the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica began asking the race for comment on the letter, as well as allegations made by two women directly to the newsrooms.

Sass has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime related to them.

Including Burke, five mushers who had been signed up voluntarily withdrew from this year’s Iditarod.

How many dogs are on a team?

This year, the Iditarod is returning to a rule allowing teams to have as many as 16 dogs. That had been the limit until 2019, when the race announced a limit of 14 dogs per team.

Nordman, the race director, said the 14-dog limit had been instituted based on concerns for dog care, the cost of flying dogs back from the trail and to make it easier for smaller kennels to compete. But Iditarod mushers voted after the 2023 race to return to 16-dog teams, and after the race’s Rules Committee agreed, the Iditarod Trail Committee board gave its approval.

a portrait of a dog
A sled dog on Yuka Honda’s team in McGrath in 2022. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Nordman said five years with the limit at 14 dogs showed no difference in the number of dogs sent home from checkpoints along the trail, which would be an indicator of any difference in a musher’s ability to care for more or fewer dogs, he said.

“Who wouldn’t want to take the biggest string of dogs possible in the biggest sled dog race in the world?” Nordman said.

In the early days of the race, there was no limit on the number of dogs in a team, he said. Then the limit was 20 dogs per team for many years, before the 16-dog rule in the more modern era.

Along with the 16-dog maximum, there’s also a minimum: Race rules say mushers must start the Iditarod with at least 12 dogs.

Where do the dogs go that don’t make it to the finish line?

Mushers with dogs that are injured or otherwise not performing well in the race can “drop” them in checkpoints. Veterinarians in the checkpoints are supposed to take a look at each dropped dog before the race ultimately flies them back to Anchorage or on to Nome.

A team needs to have at least five dogs when arriving at the finish line in Nome.

What do mushers carry in their sleds?

A lot!

There’s some mandatory gear that race officials have to check for at each checkpoint, like a veterinarian notebook, a cooker capable of boiling at least three gallons of water and a pair of snowshoes, among other things.

Some mushers carry extra items that are not mandatory, like a ski pole to help push the sled along. Mushers will also pick up bales of straw and bags with supplies – including dog food – in checkpoints and carry it with them to bed down and feed their teams while taking breaks along the trail.

A mushing sled in green
Ryan Redington sorts through his bags of supplies at the Rainy Pass checkpoint in 2023. Among the items he packed: Gatorade. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

When can we expect a winner?

First-place finishers typically arrive in Nome under the famed Burled Arch finish line in about eight days. Based on the Iditarod’s last run on the northern route, in 2022, we can expect this year’s winner to finish sometime Tuesday, March 12, likely early in the morning, but that depends on how fast the trail is overall and whether any storms hit during the race.

Mushers who make fewer mistakes and suffer less damage to their sleds, themselves and their dogs will understandably have faster times.

They’re all looking for a “dream ride,” Nordman said.

“I think all of us that have run dogs have had it,” he said. “You remember that one night when everything just clicked. It’s like you’ve got a steam engine ahead of you, and they’re just busting through the snow and having fun with it the whole time.”

How do I follow along?

Alaska Public Media will have daily coverage online and radio reports on the Alaska Public Radio network every weekday of the race. We’re also sending out our Iditarod Daily email newsletter again this year. It’ll include our latest coverage, race analysis and our “Dog of the Day” feature. Subscribe for free here. The Iditarod itself also has varying levels of coverage through its paid Iditarod Insider subscriptions.

Have a question we missed? Email Tegan Hanlon and Casey Grove at and

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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