Zoya DeNure

Where do we even begin with someone as fascinating as Zoya DeNure?!

Even though Diana is an island baby, hailing from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, she’s obsessed with sweater weather and snow. It is quite fitting that she decided to cover Zoya and Crazy Dog Kennel for a week in Alaska last January as part of a personal project. The Copper Basin 300 is the toughest 300 mile race in Alaska and Diana captured Zoya’s devotion to and connection with this team.

Diana first learned about Zoya while reading Oprah magazine in a doctor’s office waiting room and she knew she’d have to meet this model-turned-dog musher. DZ planned a trip but then had to cancel due to a (totally amazing) shoot with one of her dream clients. It wasn’t until almost a year later that she was able to fly up to Alaska to shoot and help as a dog handler. While on her amazing adventure, she fell in love with Zoya and we knew we would feature her on our blog! We know you’ll love her just as much as we do, if not more! 

From breakfast bites to midnight snack, what is your ideal food day? 

Hooked on coffee, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, granola, dark chocolate, salads, onions, red peppers & spinach wraps. 

What inspired you to live in Alaska, run a kennel and compete in dog sledding? 

The call of the wild! I felt a real call for a healthier lifestyle & real life adventures.. through blood, sweat and tears! After a really hard break up with boyfriend at age 23, I decided to go north and work with running sled dogs. 

I wanted to live more simply, needed space to dream, live a life that I felt good about. I love dogs and if I could live and breathe dogs in the mountains, connect with like minded people on healthy living and find my one true love, that would be a dream come true — not asking much at all, right??! And then snap! I started racing and I got hooked. 

How do you enjoy wine and food while also being healthy and fit?

Everything in moderation.

How has living off the grid changed the way you eat?

We don’t have instant access to fresh fruits and veggies all the time and sometimes we have to open up the canned goods. And I’ve learned how to cook!

Is it difficult to find fresh produce where you live? What do you love about living in Alaska?

Yes! In the summer months, it’s 120 miles to the grocery store but only 12 miles from our home in the winter months. I love the long winters and endless trails.

How do you plan meals for yourself and dogs during races like the Iditarod?

I plan it by the calorie and fat content — the more the better! And the exact opposite of life off the trail!

What does a typical day of meals look like for you on race days?

The dogs eat every two hours — a high protein and fat kibble diet, small pieces of salmon and a variety of meats. I snack between checkpoints as I travel on cooked bacon, chocolate and a variety of trail mixes. At the checkpoints, I’ll eat a hot meal, usually a meal I cooked and froze about a month prior. I make things like pasta dishes, more bacon, meat dishes with pasta, hot soups.

Does dog sledding allow for a great work/play balance? How so? 

No not really! Ha!

Seriously, over the years of doing this song and dance of training sled dogs and living off grid mixed in with raising kids, wanting to stay in shape, spending time with family and meeting new friends, I have learned to get organized as my time is limited. Balance is key to a healthy and happy life. I plan ahead, I get up early, and clean the house as the day progresses… everyone pitches in. The kids’ clothes are picked out the night before, pencil-in plans in with friends and community events, training runs are all planned nights in advance, etc. We do have kennel and nanny help on and off. I manage our businesses and my email box is always full. Life is full! I handle a lot and enjoy the challenge!

It keeps me young! 🙂

Five things you are dying to have right now…

Sweet and sour chicken, California sushi rolls, cheese fondue with fresh bread, lightly toasted, a fresh mango and pineapple smoothie AND Iditarod success!

What is your daily morning regimen?

Drink a glass of water, morning yoga, deep breathing, coffee, checking emails, get the kids up and out all before 9am daily!

What is your first food memory?

I was about 7 and I disliked my baked beans and sitting at the table until I finished them. I sat for quite some time; I was stubborn but eventually ate them.

Everyone has a go-to dish. What’s yours?

Pad Thai with chicken 

When was your last hangover? What are your cures?

We were at a dog race in France and I drank too much wine. Hangovers? Not anymore…I never drink more than two drinks at a time, ever. 

Death-row last meal?


Favorite midnight snack?

Swiss chocolate and a glass of almond milk.

What inspires you?

My daughters, dogs and hubby. I have a soaring spirit that wants to learn, explore, work, play, love, laugh, eat high on the horse, travel, teach, be well and constantly improve. It’s just in my blood to keep on dreaming, living fully with passion.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Zoya,
    I am a huge fan of yours. My school is watching the Iditarod and we got to choose a person racing in the Iditarod and I chose you! I really hope you win this year and your dogs are really cute.
    Your Friend,

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