2021 Iditarod rookie of the year Chad Stoddard looks forward to opportunity to finish in Nome for first time

‘In a lot of ways I’m going to be a rookie from Ophir onward’
Chad Stoddard is headed into uncharted territory since the 2021 route was altered, meaning he will head to Nome for the first time.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 9:56 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Mushers filed through the parking lot of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race headquarters in Wasilla for pre-race veterinarian checks as preparations ramp up before the biggest race of the year.

Among those stopping by for a mandatory pre-race check was Anchorage musher Chad Stoddard. Last year he took 23rd and earned rookie of the year honors.

While Stoddard is experienced, he’s headed into uncharted territory since the Gold Trail Loop in 2021 didn’t go past the Iditarod checkpoint, meaning Stoddard will go through Western Alaska and finish in Nome for the first time.

I’m really excited to see those villages along the way and get to Nome, which is really fun — that’s something I’ve looked forward to for a long time,” Stoddard said during pre-race vet checks at Iditarod headquarters. “... In a lot of ways I’m going to be a rookie from Ophir onward.”

The 34-year-old musher is a cool customer and feels prepared for this year’s race despite some of the unknowns on the trail. During the offseason, Stoddard had the benefit of training alongside five-time champion Dallas Seavey and will mush with dogs from the defending champion’s kennel.

“He (Seavey) trains how he races essentially. Practice how you play, that old adage,” Stoddard said. ”... It’s been more intensive.”

In 2021, training was more of a feeling-out process as he took a veteran team of dogs from mushers Sven Haltmann and Torsten Kohnert that had competed in thousand-mile races.

“Last year I was working with Sven Haltmann and I did a lot of the training myself and kind of was going about what I thought was correct,” Stoddard said. “This year (has) been fun tagging along behind Dallas and seeing how he does things so I’ve learned a ton this winter.”

While Stoddard had a strong rookie campaign, he doesn’t have any expectations about where he’ll finish in the 2022 race. While his focus is on the upcoming Iditarod, he plans to be a part of the race for the long haul and said one day owning his kennel could be in the cards.

“I think I’m going to be doing this for the foreseeable future,” Stoddard said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty awesome mushers in the past and learned a lot. And that’s what’s really fun for me, is just learning something new every year and just seeing the beautiful countryside in Alaska.”

Before he raced in Iditarod, Stoddard worked for dog mushing tour companies in Wyoming and Juneau. His family has ties to the race — his great-grandfather William Buck Sr. delivered mail around the time of the 1925 Serum run.

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