Only 16 mushers will compete in this year’s Kobuk 440 Sled Dog Race, starting from Kotzebue on Thursday afternoon.
Although 20 mushers is the cap for the Kobuk 440, it doesn’t seem like the race will get a full list of teams this year. Jeff King is the latest musher to take his name off the official roster.
Currently, the field is comprised of nine rookies, including Quince Mountain, the husband of 2019 Iditarod finisher Blair Braverman, as well as former Kobuk winners.
“The returning champion from 2015, Cim Smyth, the 2016 and 2018 champion Nicolas Petit is returning, and then the 2017 champion Jessie Holmes.”
That is Hannah Atkinson, the president of the Kobuk 440 racing association. According to her, the trail conditions are changing from day to day. Although the route from Kotzebue to Kobuk and back is all passable, Atkinson says it might be a rough journey for this year’s teams.
“There wasn’t any major overflow or open water concerns except in front of Kobuk, and luckily, there’s an overland route that goes from Kobuk to Shungnak. But other than that, things got a little bit slushy last week, and now that it’s colder, things are getting icier.”
The winning team of the 2019 Kobuk 440 will take home a portion of $55,000, which is slightly less than the total race purse from years past.
Another slight change for this year’s Kobuk is the starting date. The sled dog race will coincide with the annual Archie Ferguson / Willie Goodwin Sr. Memorial snowmachine race this weekend, as the 16 mushers depart Kotzebue tomorrow at 12:30pm and aren’t expected back across the finish line until Sunday.
KNOM’s Emily Hofstaedter contributed to this report.
Image at top: file photo: Musher Jessie Holmes at the start line of the 2018 Kobuk 440 in Kotzebue. Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.
Web Extra: Preview of Kobuk 440 From KOTZ Radio
Provided by our partners at KOTZ Radio in Kotzebue, here is an extended preview of the Kobuk 440: informal interviews with selected mushers during the pre-race drawing for bib numbers: