UAA student gearing up for a future in the Iditarod

Robert Forto mushing with his team.
Robert Forto mushing with his sled dog team, Team Ineka. Photo credit: Britt Conn

Robert Forto, a testament to the commuter demographic of UAA, drives to school from his home in Willow four days a week to study outdoor leadership, full time. Choosing to go back to school for fun, Forto, 44, uses his studies to his benefit.

“I decided to go back to school just because. I like to torture myself,” said Forto, laughing to himself.

Taking care of a team of 38 sled dogs and going to school full time is a quite a feat. Forto spends everyday working towards either his goal of the Iditarod or his goal of completing his degree at UAA.

“We do a couple of hours of chores in the morning and a couple hours of chores in the evening. We typically train at night, so we are getting by on as little sleep as possible. It’s just sort of the lifestyle, we get up and it’s either work or school, and then the dogs on the other side.”

Taking care of his team requires hours of preparation and a food budget fit for a family of six.

“We have to feed, pick up, chop meat, mend equipment, make sure everything’s in working order, shovel snow, we have to trail groom, all those types of things. We feed [the dogs] about 30 pounds of raw meat a day, and a bag of kibble a day. We have a food budget of about 2000 to 2500 dollars a month.”

Mushing since 1994, Robert loves his team and has gradually been getting ready to compete in the Last Great Race. Robert’s team, called Team Ineka, have participated in multiple expeditions to train for the Iditarod, which Forto hopes to compete in by 2018.

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“I got my first Siberian Husky in 1994. It’s the love of the breed. My daughter did Jr. Iditarod for the last couple years and pretty much said ‘Dad, it’s your turn.’ she’s been mushing since was three years old,” said Forto.

Whether it’s part of training for the Iditarod or just to stay in shape, Forto makes sure that every expedition he participates in with his team is promoting something worthwhile.

“We always have a purpose for our expeditions whether it’s to promote healthy lifestyles or promote a cause,” Forto said.

Off the trail, Forto hosts a mushing radio show that can be found on This has given Forto and opportunity to gain experience with the trails, the people and the passion of the Iditarod. On his show he shares stories, tracks mushers, and hosts multiple mushers. The show does nightly coverage of the Iditarod.

“I’ve got lots of experience with people running it and helping with it and training for it. We spend a lot time talking about the middle to the back of the pack folks. Nobody knows anything about those guys, they only know about the people that are winning,” Forto said.

Forto will be giving sled dog rides as part of UAA’s Winterfest next week Monday through Thursday from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. in front of Cuddy Hall. Come out for Winterfest and support our UAA mushers.

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