Born December 26, 1954, Susan Butcher lives on a homestead in Eureka, Alaska, 140 miles northwest of Fairbanks. A professional musher, dog breeder and trainer, she is the first person the win the Iditarod three time consecutive times. She holds the record for fastest completion of seven different races, and has proved herself as the number-one musher in the world by breaking nine speed records in major international races. This includes the Iditarod record, which she broke by an amazing 31 hours.
Since 1982, Susan has been the foremost representative of Dog Sled Racing worldwide. She also operates the Trail Breaker Kennels at her home, and owns 150 Alaskan Huskies. Her speeches and slide shows about her lifestyle in Bush Alaska and her athletic endeavors as a racer invigorate and delight audiences.
Her interest in the sport of dogsled racing began at age 16, when she taught her first Husky to pull a sled. In 1972, she moved to Colorado, where she ran fifty Huskies owned by a local musher. She moved to the Wrangell Mountains in Alaska in 1975 to start her own kennel of Alaska Huskies.
In 1978, she ran her first Iditarod, becoming the fourth woman to complete the race and the first to place in the money, finishing 19th. She bettered her own record in 1979 by breaking the top ten, finishing ninth.
In 1979, Susan and fellow musher Joe Redington, Sr. were the first and only people to take a dog team to the summit of Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak.
She entered the elite top five in 1980, finishing fifth. She repeated her performance in 1981. In 1982, she finished three minutes behind the winner in second place. After being lost for eleven hours on an unmarked trail in 1983, she dropped to ninth place. She bounced back in 1984 with a second place finish. In the 1990-racing season, she raced 2,680 miles, more miles in one year than any other musher in history. In 1990, her record included four wins and two second-place finishes.
In all 18 of the long distance races Susan has completed since 1984, Susan placed first ten times, second seven times, and had one third-place finish. All of these races were over 200 miles.
In 1985, she had the best team of her career thus far. She began the race by setting the record for fastest time between Anchorage and Eagle River. She continued to lead through the first three checkpoints until her race was cut short by a charging moose who killed two of her beloved dogs and injured thirteen others. She was forced to quit the race, and spent the next week at a veterinary clinic saving the lives of her injured team. Susan came back in 1986 with a record-setting win and repeated the performance in 1987 and 1988.
She became the Iditarod champion in 1986, and retained the title in 1987, 1988, and 1990, and has finished in the top ten every year since 1979. She has promoted both the Iditarod and dog mushing for ten years throughout the world. She also served six years on the Iditarod Board of Directors.
She has appeared on many national and international television programs, including ABC’s Wide World of Sports, 20/20, and David Letterman. Both PBS and National Geographic have produced documentaries about her. She has been featured in countless print publications as well, including Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. She has received numerous awards. She met with President Reagan in the Oval Office and President Bush in the Rose Garden.
She married David Monson, a fellow musher and lawyer, in 1985.
NOTE: This bio appeared in the November 8, 2003 program for our "Explorers and Adventurers" Forum.