Hometown: Girdwood, AK
Nicolas Petit, 32, (pronounced "peti") was born in France and grew up in Normandy until the age of 12, when his mother remarried and moved him and his sister to New Mexico. Following high school and some college, he worked to save money to drive to the Alaska in 2000.
After exploring parts of the state, Petit decided to live and work in the small ski resort town of Girdwood. It was here that Petit adopted an Alaskan Husky, a gorgeous blue-eyed puppy he named "Ugly."
Ugly opened Petit's eyes to the value of snowy Alaska, but a trip to Wyoming introduced him to mushing. He credits Iditarod veteran Billy Snodgrass for putting him on the runners. He worked at Snodgrass’s Continental Divide Dogsled Adventure for one season, and then headed back to Alaska where he began helping another past Iditarod finisher, Dario Martinez.
Just to be around sled dogs, Petit would often leave his well-paying construction job as early as he could, sometimes foregoing extra pay, to help out at Martinez’s Chugach Express.
In fall 2010, Martinez connected Petit up with fellow Iditarod musher Jim Lanier, of Northern Whites Kennel in Chugiak, who, because of an ailing hip, needed help and had the extra dogs to let Petit train for a future Iditarod run. Petit's plan for 2011 was to work with Lanier and compete in the necessary qualifying races to be eligible for the 2012 Iditarod. However, Lanier’s hip needed replacing sooner than expected. He then asked Petit to run his team for 2011 under the medical replacement rule.
Petit took on the challenge of qualifying, training and raising funds all in the same year as his rookie Iditarod race. It is rare for a musher to have only a few months, rather than a year, to raise funds and pack gear for what is known as “the last great race on earth.”
Petit not only met the challenge, he exceeded it by finishing in 28th place. He crossed the finish line first among 13 rookies who started the race, garnering him the 2011 Jerry Austin Rookie of the Year Award.