JUNEAU - The second presentation in the Glacier Valley Rotary Club's 18th annual Pillars of America Speaker Series will be Iditarod musher Martin Buser at noon Wednesday at Centennial Hall.
Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, in 1958, Buser became fascinated with sled dogs while still a teen. He came to Alaska in 1979 to enhance his knowledge of care and training of sled dogs. He began working and training with long-time Alaskan mushers Earl and Natalie Norris and ran his first Iditarod in 1980. Buser, wife Kathy Chapoton, a teacher, and sons, Nikolai and Rohn (both named after Iditarod checkpoints), live in Big Lake, where the family owns and manages Happy Trails Kennel.
Buser spends a large percentage of his personal time speaking with youth on the humanitarian care of animals and the spirit of the Iditarod. A favorite celebrity of the children of Alaska, Buser treats them with surprise visits from his dogs during many of these appearances. Buser runs the race each year with his dogs to test the success of their breeding, training and physical endurance. He regards his racers as true competitive athletes and prides his team on their longevity and spirit of competition.
"I run the Iditarod to prove that my dogs, bred, trained and raced by Happy Trails Kennels, are the best amongst the world's long distance athletes," Buser said.
Buser's 2002 team currently holds the record for the Fastest Iditarod by completing the race in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds.
As tribute to his treatment of his racers, Martin was awarded the coveted Leonhard Seppala Award in 1988, 1993, 1995 and again in 1997 for the most humanitarian care of his dogs. The award was named for the most famous Alaskan musher who ran the longest and most dangerous stretch of the 1925, 674-mile diphtheria serum run from Nenana to Nome, which saved hundreds of lives. Following Buser's 2002 Iditarod victory, the process for his becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States was completed under the burled monument.
Upon completion of the 2005 Iditarod after a woodworking accident four days prior to the race start resulting in the amputation of a part of his finger, his fellow mushers awarded him both the Sportmanship and Most Inspirational Awards.
Buser is an honorary member of Rotary and the Explorer's Club. His hobbies are carpentry and woodturning. In the summer, Buser and his family give tours of their working kennel.
The tour begins with a DVD trip from Anchorage to Nome narrated by Buser and includes his unique anecdotal stories gathered over 23 Iditarods. Visitors are offered a glimpse of a mock up of the Cripple Checkpoint complete with campfire and wall tent. Veterinary and dog care topics are discussed and of course, there's the cuddling of puppies. The tour ends with a riotous symphony of dogs barking as a team is hooked up and taken on a demo run to show visitors the dogs in action.