In mid-February, the Mat-Su Valley hosts the beginning of the longest and toughest snowmobile race event in the world: the Iron Dog. In its 30th year in 2013, the race features teams of two snowmobile racers riding from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks, covering more than 2,000 miles of rugged Alaskan terrain. Sea ice crossings, the frozen Yukon River, and treacherous passes await these rugged snowmobilers, who don’t slow down for anything; some of them average 55 mph through the snowy terrain. Roughly 30 teams of professional riders enter the race each year, and amateurs can run the course to Nome! Hop on a sled and do it yourself with your buddies.
If you aren’t up for the entire race, check out the start in Big Lake. A family-oriented celebration of snowmobiles and winter recreation, this two-day winter festival draws several thousand people and features live music, snowmobile runs, ice-skating, food vendors, and shopping booths, plus freestyle aerial demonstrations.
The race kicks off on Sunday, with a staggered start between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more time with racers and their machines, you can visit the Alaska Snowmobile Safety & Educational Expo at the Wasilla Sports Complex. Learn about avalanche and winter safety, see the snowmobiles get inspected, and chat with racers. (It’s indoors too, which can be nice in early February!).