The Cost of Running Dogs

The sport of dog racing has been compared to an expensive hobby by many mushers. While I work very hard in the off season on the Norris Glacier to earn enough money to support my winter endeavors, the truth is anything helps when it comes to putting a dog team together to run in competitive races. The Iditarod, in particular, is an expensive race to run because it takes place off the road system. The following is a quick summary of some of the costs that go into running the Iditarod (these estimates don't include the costs of caring for the dogs and getting them trained for the race in months leading up to the race):

  • Entry fee: $4,000

  • Travel Costs:  $1,500.  Since the Iditarod is off the road system, you have to pay to fly your dogs home from the finish line in Nome, Alaska, along with yourself, at least one handler, and all your gear. 

  • Misc. Expenses the week before and the week after the race:  $1,000.  There is a LOT of little details outside of the race to remember like the travel for all the pre-race meetings, vet checks, and ceremonial start and restart. Then there is the purchase of food in Nome, a remote town where food is very expensive, once you finish. Also there is the cost of shipping sky kennels to Nome.

  • Dog Booties:  $1,500.  Each bootie roughly costs $1/bootie depending on the manufacturer. Each dog needs 4 booties per roughly 50 miles of trail and there are 14 dogs in a team.

  • Dog Food:  $2,400.  These figures can vary depending on the type of dog food, the amount of time on the trail, and the number of dogs used in each race.  The Iditarod does not return unused dog food from the checkpoints, and since they require a 60 pound minimum per drop bag, that can lead to an unfortunate amount of wasted food.  Each musher will ship out between 1,200 and 1,800 pounds of dog food, which averaged out to about $1.00 per pound.  On top of the food bill is the cost to ship it out, also $1.00 per pound.

  • Sled Maintenance Costs:  $500.  This primarily covers cost of plastic for the sled runners (I'll probably ship out 4 rolls of plastic each, at $80 per set) and spare parts. 

  • Musher Food:  $250.  This covers the food sent out in the musher's drop bag to refuel themselves when they resupply at each checkpoint. This will include meals, snacks, and drinks.

  • Musher's Personal Items:  $500.  This amount may vary depending on what I am able to scrounge together, but this estimate covers many basic drop bag items like socks, batteries for headlamps and gps, toiletries, hand and foot warmers, as well as the mini bags that separate my dog food from my personal gear.

  • Other Equipment & Gear:  $8,000.  These estimates include a wide variety of things, like:  ganglines, harnesses, sleds, sled bags, my mandatory gear required by the race (cooker, ax, sleeping bag, snowshoes), snow hooks, ski poles, dog coats, dog leggings, medications, and supplements, cooler, dog bowls, and food ladle.  Then there is my personal gear which includes long underwear, jackets, fur hood ruff, Anorak, gloves, over-mittens, neck gators, boots, headlamps, goggles, hats, and many other articles of clothing to keep me warm.  Most of these items I have already acquired over the last 5 years or will be able to borrow from my friends or from my boss, Linwood Fiedler, and thankfully won't need to purchase them for Iditarod.

 

My estimate for what it will cost me to run in Iditarod: $15,000-$18,000 

 

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