The 40th Annual Iditarod began in Anchorage Saturday as 66 teams set off on the 1,049-mile journey across the state of Alaska.

For the next two weeks, mushers and their dogs take on the some of the most dangerous terrain in the United States in what is dubbed The Last Great Race.

It is the Super Bowl of mushing, said Brent Sass, champion dog-sledder who is competing in his first Iditarod, reported the Washington Post. It is the big one.

The teams consist of 12 to 15 dogs and one musher. They are expected to endure sub-zero temperatures, with limited to no visibility, deadly mountains, frozen lakes, streams and rivers, and of course, indigenous animals.

There are six former champions competing in the race including last year's winner, John Baker, 49. He is the first Inupiat Eskimo to win the race and the first Alaskan native since 1976, reported the Washington Post. 

Continue Reading Below

Lance Mackey is also competing in the race. He won four consecutive Iditarods, but his streak was cut short in 2011 by Baker. Mackey was disappointed in 16th place finish last year and is confident he can make a comeback this year, reported the Washington Post.

This team is as good as any team here, Mackey said.

The trails were originally used for moving mail, supplies and gold throughout the largest state in the union.  In 1925, the trail was used by mushers to bring Diphtheria serum to Nome from anchorage when an outbreak struck the former territory, reported Yahoo.

Check out the first pictures of the start of the race by clicking through the slideshow.