Warming Weather Forces Iditarod Changes

Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage, Alaska
Associated Press
January 10, 2008

The modern challenges of global warming and population growth are catching up with the world's most famous sled dog race.

Citing a warming climate and sprawling development, officials with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race said Wednesday they were implementing permanent logistical changes that in recent years have become the norm for the March event.

The March 1 ceremonial start in Anchorage will go 11 miles (18 kilometers), 7 miles (11 kilometers) less than the traditional route.

The actual competitive start of the 1,100-mile (1,800-kilometer) race the following day will move 30 miles (50 kilometers) north to Willow, from the traditional site in Wasilla, where the Iditarod has its headquarters.

Wasilla is in Alaska's fastest growing region.

Development

"A lot of development in the area makes it less desirable, and there have been less-than-winter conditions," said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee.

"It just doesn't make sense to us to make choices that are not in the best interest of both the two- and four-legged competitors," he said.

Long gone are the early days of the race that began in 1973 to commemorate the 1925 delivery by sled dogs of lifesaving diphtheria serum to Nome.

Because of lack of snow, the competitive launch—called the restart—has not taken place in Wasilla since 2002. The following year, conditions were so dismal along some stretches of the race trail north of Willow that managers made the unprecedented decision to hold the restart in Fairbanks, more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) away.

Since then, Willow has been the site where mushers and their dogs begin the trek to Nome.

For the ceremonial start, snow is trucked along the route that begins in downtown Anchorage. That's not a solution for the actual competition, officials said.

Continued on Next Page >>


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