ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The second half-century for the world’s most famous sled dog race is getting off to a rough start.
Only 33 mushers will participate in the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, the smallest field ever to take their dog teams nearly 1,000 miles over Alaska’s unforgiving wilderness. This year’s lineup is smaller even than that of the 34 mushers who lined up for the very first race in 1973.
The small pool of mushers is raising concerns about the future of an iconic race that has taken hits from the pandemic, climate change, inflation and the loss of deep-pocketed sponsors, just as multiple big-name mushing champions are retiring with few to take their place.
The largest field ever was 96 mushers in 2008; the average number of mushers starting the race over the last 50 years was 63.
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