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The Epic Iditarod Returns

Iditarod musher Mitch Seavey and his sled dogs, mushing on a snowy tundra landscape.

Last month, staff and volunteers brought all the dimensions of the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to listeners as mushers traversed Alaska’s wilds along the storied, rugged trail. KNOM has covered the race each year since the very first Iditarod in 1973.

To save costs and improve coverage this year, KNOM partnered with the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). APRN employs two recent KNOM news alumni: Ben Matheson and Zachariah Hughes, both of whom have taken lessons learned at KNOM and applied them to successful reporting careers elsewhere in Alaska. For Iditarod 2017, Ben and Zach were trail reporters.

Ben and Zach did an exceptional job keeping Western Alaska abreast on the race, which started in Fairbanks because the Anchorage route didn’t have enough snow. The race concluded with a victory for longtime musher Mitch Seavey, also the father of last year’s champion, Dallas Seavey. Mitch’s 2017 win was his third, and it was doubly record-breaking: for the fastest finish time in Iditarod history, and for the oldest musher to win the race. (At 57 years old in 2017, Mitch broke his own oldest-champion record that he had set in 2013, at age 53.)

Sled dogs at the Iditarod race start in Fairbanks.

Sled dogs at the Iditarod race start in Fairbanks. Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM.

An aerial view of an Iditarod musher, Nicolas Petit, on the snowy trail leading to Nome.

Musher Nicolas Petit runs his team on the tundra leading to the Nome finish line. Photo: Ben Matheson, KNOM.

The Iditarod is a highlight of the year for KNOM’s region. Listeners relish in the competition, epic scale, and tremendous challenges the race presents to its mushers. The Iditarod honors the heritage of sled dog mushing beloved and fostered within Alaska Native communities for many generations. KNOM’s volunteers refine their broadcasting skills and deepen their understanding of rural Alaska.

In 2017, “The Last Great Race” also fostered a connection with schoolchildren on the opposite side of the country. In Natchitoches, Louisiana, students at NSU Middle Lab School learned about the Iditarod with a special curriculum enhanced by stories from KNOM.

In a classroom, Louisiana schoolchildren look forward as a teacher gestures towards an overhead-projector image showing an online KNOM story about the Iditarod.

Schoolchildren in Louisiana learn about the Iditarod via KNOM stories.