Here are five things to know for Saturday on Day 7 of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race:

1. Race Outlook: Leaders begin creating distance from the pack

As the Iditarod enters its seventh day, a separation is beginning to take place between front-runners and the rest of the pack. 

More and more mushers are completing their mandatory rests, making it easier to pick out top contenders. 

Nicolas Petit and Joar Leifseth Ulsom have been stand-outs, with Jessie Royer and Peter Kaiser hanging close behind them. 

Musher Jessie Royer was the third to pass through the Anvik checkpoint on Friday. (Photo by Shirley Young)

Once mushers reach Unalakleet, their next hurdle will be conquering the coast. While mild weather has created tough conditions on the trail in its own way, if conditions are going to get harsh, the coast is typically where it happens. 

Speed is important in carrying mushers this far, but now is when dog teams will also need to demonstrate endurance. 

 

2. Iditarod Forecast: Snow showers and low visibility ahead

Mild weather gripped the first half of the Iditarod, but as a storm system tracks into Southwest Alaska, it will bring reduced visibility, windy conditions and snow showers. 

While the greatest impacts will be felt into the evening hours, the first half of Saturday will still be mild with highs topping out in the mid-30s. Although reduced visibility can be challenging at times, the Yukon River will allow for a fairly easy trek for mushers with little bends as the journey to Nome continues.

Snow depth for the remainder of the trip will vary greatly, with many areas still hovering near two feet of snow and approaching five feet as the mushers near Nome.

Speaking of all that mild weather, the KTVA trail crew enjoyed it Friday in Anvik while they could!

 

3. Aliy Zirkle: Mushing Superstar  

There’s a reason why people love Aliy Zirkle and why she is one of the great ambassadors of this sport. Here’s the proof: 

 

4. Professional athletes, professional care

Over 50 veterinarians from five different countries are volunteering during the Iditarod. Michelle Barton traveled to Alaska from Brisbane, Australia to volunteer.

Surprisingly, this is not Barton's first foray into the sport. She said she helps with sled dogs races in Australia.

"[It] has people looking at me puzzled wondering how they do dog sled racing in Australia," Barton said. "We do have some snow areas but the majority of our dog sled racing is dry land. We use gigs and scooters and that sort of stuff and I've been helping with dog sled races in Australia for over 15 years."

The biggest obstacle for her isn't the cold, it's converting Celsius to Farhenheit.

 

5. Dog of the Day 

Poppy, a six-year-old lead dog for Aaron Burmeister, rests at the checkpoint in Nikolai on Tuesday. (Daniella Rivera / KTVA)

Poppy is a 4-year-old sled dog running her second Iditarod race with musher Aaron Burmeister. She shares a father with most of the dogs on Burmeister’s team, but she is the only dog he’s running with that doesn’t belong to him. Burmeister said he split a litter with a friend who has let him borrow Poppy. 

“She’s really turned into a superstar,” he said. 

At the checkpoint in Nikolai, Burmeister said he chose Poppy to lead his team through the roughest terrain on the trail yet, which included dirt, gravel, boulders and six water crossings. 

Aaron Burmeister arrives at the checkpoint in Nikolai with Poppy in lead after successfully traversing a rough patch out trail outside of Rohn. (Daniella Rivera / KTVA)

“When I was running double leaders, one would want to run one way across the water and the other would go the other way and they confuse themselves, and so I picked the leader that had no fear of water and she would just charge through and drag everybody right through,” he said. 

Burmeister says Poppy is a sweetheart. 

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.

COMPLETE RACE COVERAGE:

Iditarod