After the rocky, injury-plagued, snow-light conditions of last year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, this year's even warmer season means the starting line of the race will move 225 miles north. It will still end in Nome, Alaska, but it'll begin in Fairbanks rather than Anchorage.
The Seattle Times reports:
A weather pattern that buried the eastern U.S. in snow has left Alaska fairly warm and relatively snow-free this winter, especially south of the Alaska Range.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race starts Saturday with a ceremonial run through Anchorage. But the official start two days later has been moved 225 miles north, over the Alaska Range, to Fairbanks to avoid the area that left many mushers bruised and bloodied last year. Iditarod officials said the conditions are worse this year.
The race's chief executive officer, Stan Hooley, called the conditions "pretty miserable." And last year was no picnic.
This year's race will feature 78 mushers, including six former champions and 20 rookies. The winner is expected in Nome in about 10 days.
Race officials expect the new route to challenge even those former champs, including 2014 winner Dallas Seavey:
The route change eliminates the mountainous terrain and treacherous gorge, but it could present mushers with a whole new set of problems with a flat trail on unpredictable river ice. Plus, because it's an entirely new route, mushers say they can't rely much on information, even something as simple as the distance between village checkpoints, provided by Iditarod officials.
You can follow the race at the official live blog here; the Iditarod site has a clock that's counting down until tomorrow's ceremonial start time in Anchorage, and will presumably do the same for the March 9 official start in Fairbanks. Also from the Iditarod site, here's a map of the new route:
Top image via Iditarod Trail Committee's Facebook page