When the 1985 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race began, Libby Riddles was a virtually unknown musher living in Teller. When the race ended, she was an international celebrity. By braving a storm that no other musher challenged, Riddles became the first woman to win the world’s most significant dog sled race.
During a year of terrible storms that periodically interrupted the event, the leading mushers halted in a village checkpoint. Only Riddles seized the moment and set out on the iffy trail beyond Shaktoolik. Taking over first place, Riddles and her dogs negotiated a path through blowing snow in numbing cold. When visibility vanished she zipped herself into her sled bag and spent an anxious night alone in the wilderness.
When the storm ceased, Riddles maintained her lead all of the way into Nome, finishing in 18 days, 20 minutes, 17 seconds. Riddles was instantly hailed as a woman of spirit and courage.
It is widely acknowledged that Riddles’ electrifying triumph was one of the race’s pivotal moments, broadening the Iditarod’s fan base while inspiring women and the creation of T-shirts reading, “Alaska: Where Men Are Men and Women Win the Iditarod.”
– Lew Freedman