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Iron Dog Champs

There’s no more demanding proving ground for snowmobiles than Alaska’s Iron Dog endurance race. The two-rider teams who attempt it sign up for a grueling test of skill, mental toughness and sheer will to survive 2,645 miles (4,257 km) of brutal winter terrain. Both rider and machine are pushed to their breaking points – and beyond.

 

Just finishing the Iron Dog is the achievement of a lifetime for most of those who cross the finish line. For those who win, it’s the ultimate snowmobile racing career accomplishment and distinction they’ll carry the rest of their lives. For the second time in three years, teammates Nick Olstad and Tyler Aklestad were the first to find the finish line in Wasilla, Alaska, crossing with a time of 53 hours, 27 minutes and 21 seconds aboard their 2022 MXZ X-RS 600R E-TEC snow machines.

From the start of the race – which also began in Wasilla just days earlier – racers encountered one of the most rugged courses in recent memory. Warm weather combined with periods of heavy snowfall created incredibly rough single-track sections with massive moguls for teams to traverse.

Their random draw saw them starting well back in 21st position, Team 7 was able to make massive strides with aggressive riding and smart decisions on day one. By the time the pair reached the small town of McGrath (Population: 304), they had taken the lead just 339 miles into the race. They never looked back.

“I’ll say without a doubt that was the roughest Iron Dog I’ve ever done,” Aklestad told reports after crossing the Wasilla finish.

Added Olstad jokingly, “Every single place where it should have been smooth, it was not.”

With the right combination of determination, skill and equipment to match, the pair finished nearly three hours ahead of their closest competition.

“We didn’t have one single thing – no wrecks, we didn’t have to do anything to our sleds,” said Aklestad. “We had some luck on our side, and it paid off,” he added.

Both Aklestad and Olstad are native Alaskans and Iron Dog Race veterans. This 2022 win was significant for both. After the pair scratched out of the race last year, the 39-year-old Olstad got to cross the finish line in his hometown of Wasilla. The 36-year-old Aklestad also had plenty of local support cheering on from his hometown of Palmer, Alaska, just a 20-minute drive from Wasilla.

With the victory, Aklestad now has three wins under his belt while Olstad now has 5 Iron Dog titles to his name. It also marks the third consecutive year Ski-Doo riders have claimed the checkered flag in the race with the Aklestad-Olstad duo also winning in 2020. Brad George and Robert Schachle took the win in 2021.

Fast, tough sleds combined with tough, skilled riders have shown that Ski-Doo continues to lead the pack.