This year’s running of Finnmarksløpet, the longest dogsled race in Europe, took off from the northern Norwegian city of Alta on Saturday, with 132 mushers from 13 nations competing over the tough long-distance route.
The race has become a major annual event, as it’s expanded from its humble beginnings in 1981 with only three mushers taking part. It now draws thousands of volunteers and spectators, with state broadcaster NRK offering daily live coverage.
The race is now also part of the world championship circuit in dog sled racing and Norway’s Sigrid Ekran was among the favourites to win. TV personality and outdoorsman Lars Monsen was also among the participants, defying a training injury last week that also attracted broad media attention.
The weather was good and winds brisk as the racers took off from downtown Alta on Saturday. There are two main races, one over 500 kilometers and one covering 1,000, plus a new Junior Class race over 200 kilometers.
The so-called FL500 with eight dogs starts in Alta and continues on a round-trip route around western Finnmark, with checkpoints along the way and the fastest racers usually arriving back in Alta on Monday afternoon.
The FL1000, with 14 dogs, runs all the way from Alta to Kirkenes in eastern Finnmark, then back to Alta. Weather and racing conditions make it difficult to determine when the winner crosses the line, but it’s usually around Thursday or Friday.