Iditarod route altered due to weather concerns
Mushers and their dogs set off from the "ceremonial" starting point Saturday morning, as crowds cheer on their favorite teams.
March 4th, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Iditarod route altered due to weather concerns

Anchorage, Alaska (CNN) - Despite near record snowfall, the 40th running of the Iditarod sled dog race kicked off in Anchorage on Saturday. However, only hours after the ceremonial start of the race, Iditarod officials announced the trail's course was being altered due to worsening weather conditions.

Sixty-six mushers entered this year's race, a true test of human and canine endurance. The contest requires each musher and dog sled team to traverse almost 1,000 miles across Alaska's notorious winter terrain - between Anchorage and Nome on the Bering Sea coast.

This year, Anchorage has already doubled its usual snowfall with approximately 120 inches - 10 feet of snow - and is approaching the near 133-inch record set in 1954. The deep snow could be a major factor in the Iditarod, as weather conditions affect the dogs' physical performance and increase the threat of dangerous moose encounters on the trail.  Several Iditarod mushers have already reported run-ins with winter-weary moose during training runs through interior Alaska.

Behind the scenes at the Iditarod

Hours after Saturday morning's ceremonial start, race director Mark Nordman announced trail breakers had become more concerned over a previously planned reroute in a critical part of the 2012 trail. Citing high wind and new snow totals, Nordman broke last-minute news of the change to mushers and fans.

"As trail conditions are constantly affected by changes in weather," the Iditarod Trail Committee "will consistently evaluate available options with the goal of providing the best possible trail," said Nordman - meaning the dangerous, highly feared and ironically named "Happy Steps" would officially be back in the 2012 race route.

Veteran musher and 2012 Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, is no stranger to harsh trail conditions: He lost one of his own race dogs to overflow ice and suffered severe frostbite during previous competitions. "You really have to respect Mother Nature, and Lord knows, she’s been beating up on me over the years. So, we just have got to take care of the dogs and keep an even keel," Neff said.

Four-time Iditarod champions Lance Mackey and Martin Buser are both chasing after a fifth Iditarod win this year, and each remains optimistic in the face of challenging weather forecasts. "Expect the worst. Hope for the best. The outcome remains to be seen," said Mackey, who recognizes there will inevitably be challenges. "You've got to deal with it as it’s presented to you. Of course we have concerns."

Martin Buser, who was born in Switzerland but now resides in Big Lake, Alaska, is looking forward to sizing up this year's Iditarod field in the coming days along the trail. "This is going to be a very special race. We have a lot of competitive teams in the race and a lot of dark horses," said Buser, who proudly predicts he will be the first musher to arrive at the burled arch on Nome's famous Front Street.

The reigning Iditarod champion, Kotzebue musher John Baker, set a new Iditarod record last year - arriving in Nome in only 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. Baker's 2011 record-setting pace took place in far more ideal trail conditions, mushers point out, and they say it's not likely Baker's impressive accomplishment will be beaten in 2012.

Those kinds of predictions, however, fail to dampen the spirit of the always confident Neff. "I’m not worried about trying to do well. I expect to do well," said Neff. "Some folks down south think we hide when the weather gets bad up north. But when the weather gets rough, that’s when a lot of us animals really like to come out and play and show others what we are really about inside, and so I look forward to the challenge," he added with a wry smile.

Neff is not alone in that challenge. Sixty-five others will be confidently competing against him as teams depart the race "chute" on Willow Lake on Sunday afternoon. Once the official Iditarod race clock begins, only one thing is certain. It's a long, treacherous and punishing ride to Nome - with or without Mother Nature's cruel winter fury.

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Filed under: Alaska • Iditarod
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Bloodsportfan

    ...not to mention we eat animals. Some humans still eat horses and dogs. Really. If you abort your horse fetus they chargee you with cruelty to animals. But if you eat your dog, they respect your culture. Don't get caught aborting a show dog's puppies. It would be like trying to get rid of the one a prospective mother wanted to keep instead of abort this time. Hmmm. Is it politically correct to refer to a woman packing a fetus as a 'prospective mother'? Prolly not. So sorry.

    March 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      Then don't abort your baby, Bloodsportsan. Simple.
      Now back to the topic....

      March 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Street warrior

    And you are right bloodsport!!! We do treat humans worse than we treat animals. If you notice, they both continue repeating tge same thing over and over again,

    March 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bloodsportfan

    Yes. Dogs bark. Humans talk. What of it? It's still no reason for them to shack-up together. Not to mention housecats. "Meow. Somebody's trying to break into the house. Le mew. Le purr"...and then go hide. Prohibition does NOT work. Legalize cat juggling.

    March 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Also having a good sense of humor helps to bring people to ones side on a specific issue. ūüôā

      March 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    At least some of the posters here actually participate in PERSUASIVE discussions, rather than FOCUSING in on the speaker.

    Guess you really have nothing to say.

    March 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RUFFNUTT (( 1/2 5th level magic-using kender ,1/4 illusionist ,1/4 warrior ))

    what we need to do is invent a dog suit and shoes that resist water and cold...
    they should also be reflective so if a dog gets lost we can find them..
    the do-shoes should be comvortable and light weight and resist snow build up...
    i think alot of dogs could be mad happier and safer by just having some dog beds... a thin dog bed to keep them off the snow would help..

    March 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chrissy

    @ luver, couldnt agree more!

    March 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Colin in Florida

    Not only is your opinion silly (you can make the bible say anything you want by quoting different verses), it has no place in a SPORTS report on a race in Alaska.

    Tell you what: Prove how good you are: Go stand in the path of a tornado and see if god spares you.

    March 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    That's just our favorite misogynist serving the cool-aid only one other person will drink.
    It's all good.

    A pitbull is STILL in the terrier class.
    Americans STILL don't spend as much on their pet toys as they do on charity.

    Hi, eveyrone,

    March 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ¬©

      @banasy, is this just another name for the rodent? Hope the day was great for you. Hello to all of the good guys!

      March 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      No, this is one who posts under many different names.
      He changes his u/n with every different post, at times.
      His favorite topic is usually the anus and sodomy.
      At least hamsta has the balls to only post under hamsta.

      March 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    I suppose it makes sense you would shoot the female cat.

    March 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "On The Lunatic Fringe"

    @ banasy©
    Hi banasy©, dropped in momentarily to say hi, and hope everything is going good for you and yours.
    I wish I could upload a picture of our foo foo puppy to you considering it's about dogs. The other day, I bought her a little pink vinyl raincoat with a bunny rabbit on the back of it. Mommy put it on her the other day when it rained, and she seems to like it. I'm glad she don't try to chew (peeking) on it like her racoon with a little plastic coke bottle with a squeeker in it.

    March 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KeithTexas

    I just like mushing through Anchorage in the pre race parade, then taking the flight to Nome to see the end of the race. I don't think I am tough enough to stay out for 10 days even when I was younger.

    March 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chrissy

    @ banasy dear you already know the answer to that ? its the *kool aid drinker* using a dif un thereby agreeing with oneself!

    March 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    @dazzle: knew you'd catch on quick. ūüėČ

    @chrissy: of course, luv! There's only one other who drinks from the same poisonous cup. They share.
    Isn't that nice?

    March 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Street warrior

    @mary ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,iam right,you are wrong, iam smart and you are dumb! Oopps! Did i say that? Oh, i guess you have no response to common sense that these dogs are vital to alaskan life, than you are dumb . Conversation over!

    March 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chrissy

    lmao @ banasy, aint that a good way to spread an infectious disease?

    March 4, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      Nobody else drinks from that particular cup....

      March 4, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
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