by: Zachariah Hughes – Alaska Public Media
Once again, the Iditarod is moving to Fairbanks.
The race’s board of directors met today in Anchorage and voted
unanimously to change the starting point from Willow to Fairbanks. Almost
immediately after the decision was made behind closed doors, Race Director
Mark Nordman held a press conference that local TV station KTVA broadcast
live on Facebook.
“Everybody was really somber. We went through communities and
effects with, taking of the dogs first and the mushers and the communities
and the cultural aspects and the economics and everybody knows what a big
decision this was to make, and how it does effect so many. These are very
good friends of Iditarod’s out there, and you know it’s tough for all of
This is the third time the re-start has moved to Fairbanks in the race’s 45 year history. And it’s the second time in a row the event will not go through it’s southern route, skipping communities like Anvik, Shageluk, and Grayling. The Fairbanks trail heads west toward Galena before veering north to Huslia then back down to the Yukon. The general routing is similar to the original 1925 trail used during Nome’s diptheria outbreak.
Nordman says in spite of good winter conditions across the vast majority of
the traditional route, snow is unacceptably low in one critical section of
the trail in the Alaska Range around Rainy Pass and into the Dalzell
“Fairbanks has good snow, even the coast has good snow, McGrath
has good snow, but nobody was thinking snow. When you start seeing 12, 14
inches up in the mountains that’s really low snow to try and go ahead over
that terrain. We’re used to feet.”
Organizers were heavily criticized in 2014 when they decided to allow
mushers to race through that same section of the trail. Ice and abysmal
snow conditions led to injuries and equipment damage.
The Iditarod’s ceremonial start will still take place in Anchorage on the
first Saturday in March. After that, teams will head to Fairbanks, where
the re-start will take off on Monday the 6th.