The North Pole Championships were first run in 1976 and were the highlight of the North Pole Winter Carnival for years! Some of the best sprint musher’s in Alaska raced in the premier event that musher and now pioneer Harvey Drake envisioned! The route was much different back then, starting near the very center of our small town, North Pole, Alaska and crossing numerous roads to get out in the wilderness near the Tanana River. Some of the great mushers that participated in those days were George Attla, Roxy Wright, Linda Leonard, Marvin Kokrine, and Jeff Conn! In fact, Linda Leonard was tough to beat and won the race for many years! The whole community got involved in the celebration with vendor’s hawking their wares, sled dogs yapping, and musher’s readying their sleds. It was a new day in Interior Alaska, a pipeline was being built, wages were large, and excitement was high with the future of the state of Alaska as bright as the northern lights! It seems as if everything stopped when these dog races were ran, whether the North Pole Championships, the Open North American, or Fur Rendezvous, work was set aside to watch the great canine and human athletes perform under any weather conditions to watch which team would bring home the bragging rights each year!
In the late 1980’s, as the community lost volunteers and interest in putting on the race downtown, the race was moved to Chena Lakes which helped to avoid the many road crossings. The trails are professionally maintained by park staff, which made it easy on the mushers. In 2010, the Alaska Dog Mushers Association asked North Pole Economic Development (NPEDC) to help raise money for the purse, which they did with the understanding the following year it would move back to North Pole. As a result, Buzz Otis, a volunteer at NPEDC, contacted property owners to discuss allowing trails to be established on their property just for this event, which entailed a major effort of clearing brush, piling snow for ramps in and out of low areas and putting in over 25 miles of trail. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation Department played a big role in allowing use of its Morning Star Park as the start and finish location. NPEDC was also responsible for raising a purse which from 2011 on has been the biggest purse for a limited sprint race in the state. The 10 dog class has also been named the best ten dog race in the world by the International Sled Dog Racing Association since 2011, and in 2014 it took third place for the four and six dog events, as well.
In 2013, NPEDC was chosen to host the International Federation of Sleddog Sports that resulted in 13 countries participating in the race including race judges and participants from as far as Australia and Norway! The races were spectacular with even the Junior North American Championships (JNAC) part of the event! JNAC is now a regular part of the North Pole Championship, with their events taking place over three days overlapping the adults which take place during two of those days. The running of the races on the same weekend has been a great experience for both the junior and adult mushers! We invite you to join us for these exciting races that are the official sign of spring in North Pole, Alaska.