Dogsled racing, or mushing, is one of the rare professional competitive sports that is truly co-ed. Women make up nearly a third of the entries in this year’s 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, considered one of the toughest endurance competitions in the world. Proportionally, top-ten Iditarod finishes between women and men are often an even split.
I didn’t even know what the Iditarod was two years ago when I first went on assignment to photograph the Yukon Quest, Alaska’s other 1,000-mile dogsled race. Up until then, I’d mostly documented social issues and life in conflict zones. This is very different—it’s a lifestyle, not life-and-death—but I am drawn to authentic human stories within extreme circumstances, which is exactly what mushing is about. The racing and training locations are some of the most beautiful, untouched landscapes in the world. The bond between the mushers and their dogs is interesting and challenging to capture. The mushers themselves are dedicated, self-sufficient, and extremely well-versed in survival skills. And I love the dogs.
Female mushers can understandably get tired of outsiders like me coming in and focusing on their gender. But I think they’re all rad and exactly the kind of role models girls should know about. I’ll be covering this year’s Iditarod, which starts March 5, but these are some favorite shots from past 1,000-mile dogsled races and visits to kennels.
Photo: Anna and Kristy Berington with their dogs in Wasilla, Alaska, before the start of the 2015 Iditarod. The twin sisters started mushing in Wisconsin at the age of 10, and have been racing the Iditarod for the past six years. When they aren’t mushing they work construction, run triathlons, and manage a competitive racing kennel, Team Jannsen.