The Iditarod is known for being one of the most grueling races in the world. But it’s not just burly men you’ll find taking on the challenge.
In the isolated woods near Paxson, a community of just a few dozen, Iditarod competitor Zoya DeNure lives her dream of racing dogs. The desolate landscape is quite the contrast from where she was ten years ago.
“At the time it was fun. That was in Italy and this was in China. I met some great people,” said DeNure.
For 12 years she graced the pages of magazines as a model, traveling around the world and living the fast life of fashion.
“People don't understand. They ask, 'How do modeling relate to mushing?' It doesn't,” said DeNure.
Her life now bears no resemblance to her days in front of the camera. Even though she’s traded in pricey perfume for the smell of wet dog, DeNure said she’s still a girly-girl at heart.
“I’m a dog musher and I buy Vogue and Bazaar, I do. I love nice makeup and nice clothes. I'm still a girl.”
But her glamorous past hasn’t stopped her from embracing her new passion: rehabilitating and racing dogs.
Zoya runs Crazy Dog Kennel, and like her, many of these dogs started life on a different path.
She’s taken in more than 100 Alaska huskies over the past eight years, and two of those are in the running to be on her Iditarod team this year.
Between modeling and mushing, Zoya added a new career to her expanding list. She became a mom. Three-year old Jona is one of her biggest supporters. “Mushing is fun for me too. My mom can do anything,” said Jona.
While she seems to have achieved everything, there’s one thing that’s escaped her. “The biggest dream of all: I want to become a top contender in the Iditarod. I want to be taken seriously as a dog musher.
“I love being with the dogs and the challenge of taking my dogs through the wilderness of Alaska. It's not always easy but it's beautiful. It's everything.”
For Zoya, there’s beauty in all aspects of her life, from photo shoots to the finish line, where she hopes her team will lead her to her own victory.