Saturday, January 17, 2015

Will Iditarod happen this year?

Dallas Seavey's sled dogs steer the team
around a corner of the Ceremonial Start.
Anchorage, Alaska // March 2, 2013

That's the question on a lot of people's minds these days. I'm getting asked almost daily on social media and here on the blog. Truth is - I don't know. I'm not an Iditarod Insider (I mean, I do have a subscription, but that's a different type of insider). Like most everyone, I'm at the mercy of media reports as well as tidbits from trail groomers on social media.

So - where does that leave us as far as knowing if the race will take place? In the 43 years that the Iditarod has been held, they've never had to cancel - and officials aren't looking to change that any time soon.

In interviews with the media last week Race Marshal Mark Nordeman said they were monitoring the trails, and were discussing a Plan B. They had to use trails out of Fairbanks in 2003, and his hope is that IF they can't run from Willow they can follow 2003's route.

Quite simply, no, the Iditarod at this time will not be cancelled. There are options.

Still, it's fun to speculate what those options are. Reports surfaced on facebook in the last couple of days - showing the Yentna River with massive overflow and open water - but with ice bridges that were at least 18 inches thick. Safe enough for teams to cross. As long as weather conditions don't worsen (aka get warmer, and rain) the area is passable.

Less sure are parts of the Yukon River as well as parts on the Bering Sea Coastline. My guess is the Norton Sound will NOT be used to cross from Shaktoolik to Koyuk. River reports around Koyuk haven't been great, and I'm not even sure the sound froze over this winter. The Sound is always dangerous (sea ice can be tricky even in the best winters!) and I can't see them chancing it unless the ice is thick and well set.

The trail looks pretty snowless in photos in the burn area - but reports from the burn and the gorge both say the trail looks better than it did last year. But, this is January. We have a month and a half before it's the same time period as when the mushers saw it last year.

We're just going to have to wait and see... and pray for snow.

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