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Snow-Bike Races: The Long and Short of It

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Dec. 20, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM EST
Jay Petervary on the Iditarod Trail in 2011. Courtesy photo (file)

Iditarod Trail Invitational

If a single event could be called the granddaddy of all snow-bike events, the top honor would be given to the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Following the same route as the famous Iditarod sled dog race, the course takes racers through the interior of Alaska from Knik to McGrath, starting February 26th. While there are checkpoints along the way to offer racers respite, food drops and shelter, each racer is required to carry full survival gear for spending the night out in the middle of the Alaskan winter.

Many racers are content to stop in McGrath, but a select few choose to continue all the way to Nome, the final terminus of the Iditarod Trail, 1,100 miles away from the start in Knik. For some perspective, only 36 individuals have completed the race to Nome since the inaugural year in 2000. The time cut-off to arrive in McGrath is 10 days and the time cut-off or those continuing to Nome is 30 days.

To qualify to race the Iditabike, racers must prove themselves, which can be done by finishing either the Arrowhead 135, the Susinta 100, White Mountain 100, or the Sheep Mountain 100, all brutally long and hard snow-bike races in their own right. With the race limited to 50 participants, including those wishing to ski or run the route, entry into the race is competitive. Qualification for the race to Nome requires having already completed the 350 mile race to McGrath and first-timers post a $750.00 refundable deposit, should they require assistance from checkpoints or Iditarod sled dog crews and will be banned from entering in the future.

Interested riders can also attend a winter riding training camp hosted by race organizers Bill and Kathi Merchant before the race. While most would consider Iditabike racers completely out of their mind for their desire to ride the route, one can only assume that they get to experience beauty out on the trail that most could never imagine.

Race information can be found here.

Find out more about how to prepare for snow-bike races. 


Eszter Horanyi lives and mountain bikes in Crested Butte, CO.  She has dabbled in road racing, cyclocross racing, and cross country mountain bike racing, but has gravitated towards ultra endurance and multi day self supported racing in the more recent past.  She firmly believes that nothing tops a good ride with good friends on good trails, thus she spends her life in search of all of the above. All articles by Eszter.

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