Mushers now have 70,000 reasons to want to win the upcoming Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Officials with Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race announced Tuesday that the 2015 winner will receive $70,000, which is about $20,000 more than what the 2014 winner took home.

“Running this race is an expensive proposition,” said the race’s chief executive officer, Stan Hooley. “As the challenges to compete at the highest levels become more difficult and more expensive, it’s only fitting we’re doing what we can to reward those top competitors.”

At a news conference at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel in Anchorage, Hooley added that prize money will be increased for the top five finishers.

And that’s not the only change coming to the Iditarod.

Crews recently cleared away tree stumps, rocks and dead vegetation from 20 miles of the course from Rohn to Farewell Lake, the site of numerous accidents as a lack of snow over the last couple of years failed to properly cover the debris on the course.

“The main reason for it is for the safety of the dogs and mushers,” said race director Mark Nordman.

He also pointed out mushers will also notice a wider course.

“This isn’t just an Iditarod thing,” Nordman said. “This is something local travelers for Nikolai and McGrath, Iron Dog, and other events can go ahead and benefit on our work here.”

The roughly 1,000-mile race starts March 7 and ends in Nome about nine days later.

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