Kobuk 440 begins in Kotzebue

ANCHROAGE (KTUU) — The Kobuk 440 is the last major sled dog race of the year, and it began in Kotzebue on Thursday.

This year’s field features 16 teams, and more than half are rookie mushers. The race’s president Hannah Atkinson told KNOM that trail conditions are changing daily.

“There wasn’t any major overflow or open water concerns except in front of Kobuk, and luckily, there’s an overland route that goes from Kobuk to Shungnak," Atkinson said. "But other than that, things got a little bit slushy last week, and now that it’s colder, things are getting icier.”

Petit returns to racing

The Kobuk 440 is Nic Petit's first race back after his highly publicized scratch in Shaktoolik during the 2019 Iditarod.

Petit is a former Kobuk 440 champion, and won the race in 2016 and 2018. The veteran musher told KTUU in March that he planned to race the Kobuk 440, and then continue training in Unalakleet — a region that has troubled his team during the past two Iditarods.

Petit says the biggest thing he's learned over the last two years is that the memory of his dogs is just as important as their physical health.

"More than ever, I know that their mental well being is that 'I'm happy this second.' They have a very, very good memory and you have to take that into consideration when you do anything with anybody," he said. "They're a dog team, not a snow machine. Just because there's nothing physically there, there might be something mentally there. I know that the way it went until that, was the epitome of a magic carpet ride.”

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