Fur Rondy Festival. World-championship dog-mushing races are run in February, with three consecutive 25-mile heats through downtown Anchorage, out into the foothills, and back. People line the route with cups of coffee in hand to cheer on their favorite mushers. The three-day races are part of the annual Fur Rendezvous Festival, one of the largest winter festivals in the United States. Other attractions include the running of the reindeer (yes, just like Pamplona but with reindeer), a snow-sculpture competition, Alaska Native blanket toss (a holdover from earlier days when dozens of people would team up to grasp a round walrus hide blanket and launch a hunter high into the air, trampoline-style, in an effort to spot distant seals, walrus, and whales), dog weight–pulling contests (where canines of all breeds and sizes compete to see which can pull the most weight piled on a sled), a carnival, and even snowshoe softball. Fur Rondy events take place from late February to the start of the Iditarod in early March. Anchorage, AK. www.furrondy.net. Fur Rondy office. Get a guide to the festival's events at the Fur Rondy office. 400 D St., Downtown, 99501. 907/274–1177. www.furrondy.net.
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. In March, mushers and their dogs compete in the 1,150-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The race commemorates the delivery of serum to Nome by dog mushers during the diphtheria epidemic of 1925. The serum run was the inspiration for the animated family film Balto. Dog teams leave Willow, about 70 miles northeast of Anchorage, and wind through the Alaska Range, across the Interior, out to the Bering Sea coast, and on to Nome. The race has a northern route in even years and a southern route in odd years. Depending on weather and trail conditions, winners can complete the race in nine days. Anchorage, AK. 907/376–5155; 800/545–6874 Iditarod Trail Headquarters. www.iditarod.com.