AlaskaStock_001AF_AA0005_003Susan, originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved to Alaska in 1975, after receiving a veterinary technician degree from Colorado State University. It was in Colorado that Susan discovered sled dog racing, however, she didn’t pursue mushing more seriously until moving to Alaska. For 3 years, she lived in the wilderness of the Wrangell Mountains, honing both her wilderness survival and dog mushing skills.  In 1978, Susan competed in her first Iditarod; she was the top female competitor that year. She proceeded to win the Iditarod in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. Of Susan’s 16 Iditarods, she was in the top 2, 8 times; in the top 5, 12 times; and in te top 10, 15 times.

In 1979, Susan  climbed Mount McKinley by dogsled — the only person to do this. In 1992, she and her husband, David, mushed a team from the Brooks Range to Point Barrow, the northernmost point in Continental North America.

AlaskaStock_505AA_AA0034_002Susan often lectured on mushing, her pioneer lifestyle in Alaska and her career as a competitive sled dog racer. She also welcomed visitors to Trail Breaker Kennel, which rapidly became a favorite Alaskan tourist destination. Her other activities included volunteering with many local and national charities.

Susan’s many successes in competitive sled dog racing led to her becoming a revered Alaskan icon with international recognition. In addition to featuring in documentaries from the USA (PBS), England (BBC), Germany and Japan, she was a guest on various television programs, such as Johnny Carson, Good Morning America, 20/20, and David Letterman. Several national and international magazines — including National Geographic, Newsweek, Time, People, and Sports Illustrated — also wrote feature stories on Susan and her incredible career.

AlaskaStock_001AI_AA0009_001Throughout her racing career, Susan received many awards, including: ‘Outstanding Female Athlete in the World’; ‘Professional Sportswoman of the Year’, from Women’s Sports Foundation; ‘Golden Plate Award’, from the American Academy of Achievement; and ‘Healthy American Fitness Award’, from the President’s Counsel on Physical Fitness.

Over the years, Susan had the honor of meeting several of our nation’s presidents, including Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr and Bill Clinton. Susan, along with her family, participated in George W. Bush’s 2001 Inaugural Parade.

Tragically, Susan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005 and passed away the following year. She is survived by her husband, David, and her two daughters, Tekla and Chisana. In honor of Susan’s memory, the first Saturday of March — the traditional start date of the Iditarod — has been designated as Susan Butcher day.

Below is a nice video overview of Susan’s life, from Alaska.org.

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