Norway Iditarod win

Joar Leifseth Ulsom finishes first in the iconic race at nine days and 12 hours


Photo: Frank Kovalchek / WikiMedia
Joar Leifseth Ulsom competes in the Iditarod in 2013, earning Rookie of the Year.

Terrie Hanke

Congratulations to Norwegian Joar Leif­seth Ulsom and his leaders Russeren & Olive as champions of Iditarod XLVI.

Leifseth Ulsom, currently of Willow, Alaska, and his powerful, high-spirited team made the Burled Arch in nine days and 12 hours, finishing on March 14 at 3:00 a.m.

This was a race unlike others in recent history. The trail has been challenging for the leaders all the way through to the back of the pack for the entire length. Blowing snow has obscured trail only minutes after a musher passes through making each team a trail breaker.

Looking at archives from the last time Iditarod ran on the southern route in 2013, there are some interesting time comparisons. Mitch Seavey behind Tarus and Tanner won the race in nine days, seven hours, and 39 minutes. Leifseth Ulsom finished that race—his first—in seventh place with a time of nine days, 12 hours, and 34 minutes, earning Rookie of the Year honors. In the six years since that seventh place finish, he’s only improved.

Looking a couple years further back to 2011, John Baker of Kotzebue set a new record time completing the southern route in eight days, 18 hours and 46 minutes. Yes, the ine on the map was virtually the same but the trail itself was very different.

Leifseth Ulsom, born in Mo i Rana, Norway, in 1987, holds the record as the fastest rookie to have ever run the Iditarod, and is one of only two mushers to place in the top seven five times in as many Iditarod starts.

Leifseth Ulsom started out as a child by borrowing his neighbor’s two house dogs to pull him around on skis. Watching Iditarod movies is what fueled his dreams growing up. In 2007 he started mushing and building up his own team. Leifseth Ulsom received a degree from an agricultural college in Norway and worked as a cowboy while he ran the great races of Scandinavia before coming to Alaska.

“It’s unreal,” the musher remarked to Anchorage Daily News of his win. “I dreamed about it for a long time and this (is) actually happening. I don’t know what to say—it’s going to sink in at some point.”

For his victory, Leifseth Ulsom won a new truck and a check for at least $50,000. The exact total will be calculated once it’s known how many teams reach Nome, race officials said. The finishing teams will split $500,000, but the race was still underway as of March 16.

Leifseth Ulsom was greeted at the finish line by friends and family, including his father, Gunnar, who had flown in from Norway to be there. “I’m so proud of him,” he told ADN.

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email:

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