Sledding Helps Preserve the Past

Sledding helps preserve the past

Harsh Arctic weather conditions in Alaska present many environmental challenges for crossing the largest state in the U.S. These wintry obstacles have not only limited both commercial and casual travel, they’ve also impact mail delivery, forcing creative solutions to get valuable items to where they need to go.

Besides snowmobiles, airplanes, and hovercraft, a more organic mode of transportation has been used in the past to ferry mail from one location to another. Able to navigate across frozen bodies of water and thick forests, dog sleds were widely used from 1890 up until the last mail sled pulled into its destination for the final time in 1963.

Unlike horses, dogs were inexpensive to support and could handle even the harshest weather conditions. They covered great distances both day and night, and would often transport loads in excess of 500 pounds.

One of the primary paths used by dog sleds to carry mail was the Iditarod Trail. Typically taking three weeks to complete, this 2,300-mile long trail extended from Seward to Nome and was the most efficient way to transport mail across the vast distance.

To this day, the history of the dog sled is preserved through the annual running of the Iditarod race. The race originated in 1973 and has grown in popularity ever since.

This year’s race began on March 2, and is expected to continue until the last musher crosses the finish line next week.

For more information on the 2013 Iditarod race, go to

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