Sunday, January 15, 2012

Extremely cold weather and bad trail cancel Copper Basin 300

With tempertures dropping drastically this weekend in much of Alaska, and a reportedly ungroomed trail in place, the Copper Basin 300 for 2012 has been cancelled as of this morning. The announcement was made after racing was suspended late last night when it was revealed that a section of the trail had not been properly established and temperatures were down to -40F or more. Racers were allowed to continue racing up to the checkpoint where the announcement was made. Officials waited until first light to make the call that the CB300 would not continue.

At 9:30am Alaska Time, Race Marshal Greg Parvin released this statement:
"The 2012 Copper Basin 300 has been cancelled at Meier's Lake, 75 miles into the race. Heavy snows and high winds obliterated the middle section of the trail; the race trail is impassable. Furthermore, temperatures have consistently ranged between 45 and 50 degrees below zero. The decision was made in the interest of the dogs, mushers and race staff."

Some have posted on the race's facebook page and their personal pages their take on what led to the cancellation. A musher not running in the race, but lives in the general area, was very vocal on the page stating that current weather conditions were not the factor, and that poor trail management was. They stated on the CB300 Facebook page that both she and her husband were concerned to find out that they were not planning to groom the trail until the day of the race. Knowing the area and how much snow they had, they new the trail would be hard to break - especially the section from Meier's Lake to Sourdough.

Former volunteers and locals also complained at the way the breaking of the trail was handled. The man in charge of trail conditions reported earlier in the week that the trail was deep and that the weather had made it difficult, but that they had a solid base on the trail. Posters on the page today - not volunteers or officially involved with the race this season - contested that idea saying that the trail had not been properly marked or put in. A local musher seemed to confirm this in their own posts.

Temperature alone would not factor into a cancellation. Both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod see temperatures of -30 and -40 below and continue on. Reports by locals and mushers alike don't seem to mention blowing winds or snow. It seems the main difficulty is the trail itself and how ungroomed it was. While it is true that in races like the Iditarod and Yukon Quest also deal with weather created messes along the trail, when mushers are not expecting an ungroomed trail it does become discouraging.

Also discouraging is how much money is lost by the teams. While the race has refunded part of the $400 entry fee to each team, that does not account for the travel and food and lodging expenses to the mushers and their handlers. Some mushers shared their "unofficial" disappointment at having to pull out. The race is also used as a qualifier for both the Quest and the Iditarod for rookie mushers, and is one of the most competitive middistance races. Many Quest and Iditarod teams use it as a final big run before the long distance races begin. It gives everyone a chance to assess their team and their chances.

Most teams are travelling today from Meier's Lake on their way back to their home bases today.

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