‘Life Below Zero” Jessie Holmes wins Kobuk 440, toughest race above Arctic Circle


The toughest competitive event above the Arctic Circle is the Kobuk 440, a 189-mile race that starts in Kotzebue, turns in Kobuk, and ends in Kotzebue, belongs to Jessie Holmes this year.

Holmes came over the finish line just after 8:30 am on Easter Sunday. The temperature hovered around -21F, and is expected to get as high as -7F on Sunday.

Born and raised in Alabama, Holmes left home at 18 to head to Alaska. He made it as far as Montana, where he worked as a carpenter and saved money before heading to Alaska with his dog Freedom. He started running dogs on the Yukon River and competing. He won the Kobuk 440 in 2017, and was 7th in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 2018, as well as being named “Rookie of the Year” that year. He placed 3rd in the 2022 Iditarod and 5th in the 2023 Iditarod, which he finished less than a month ago on March 14, having raced for 9 days, 4 hours 8 minutes and 53 seconds, going from Willow to Nome.

Holmes lives in Nenana and makes a living as carpenter and TV personality. He has been featured on “Life below Zero,” a National Geographic series showing the daily lives of people living in Bush Alaska. Appearing on the show since 2015, he has become one of the most popular Alaskans and has a big social media following. He runs Can’t Stop Racing Kennels and his hobbies include running ultra-marathons, and subsistence hunting and fishing.

Hugh Neff, age 53, another legendary Alaska musher, is expected to make it to the finish line later today. Racers this year are Martin Early, Dempsey Woods, Hugh Neff, Kevin Hansen, Lauro Eklund, Jessi Downey, Jeff Deeter, Michelle Phillips, Jessie Holmes, Jim Bourquin, Richie Diehl, and Bailey Vitello.


  1. I was shocked to learn on an episode of “Life Below Zero” that Jesse needs 3000 salmon from a Yukon River fish wheel to feed his 47 dogs. They looked like Chums which, as I understand, are in decline causing shutdown of subsistence and local commercial fisheries.

    • Better than the US postal service delivering dog food by hovercraft by the pallet to villages along the Kuskokwim. The deep trawlers kill 10 years worth of food for his dogs in one week. Government is the problem, not the lack of fish.

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