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.

Post by:
Filed under: Alaska • Iditarod
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Superman

    @ street warrior maybe we should harness some of these people and, see how quick they submit to doing good. Some of the mushers dont even keep a lot of there winnings, considering that they give it away to state charities, i have a cousin that lives in alaska and knows a lot about this sport! So its an open shut topic

    March 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A mericans

    A merican's spend more on weaponry than all other nations combined. Interstingly, A merican's spend more on mind-altering substances than they do on national defense. And yes, Americans spend more on toy horses than they do on charity. (not counting church handouts to disability fradsters, welfare, food stamps, etc)

    March 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Look daz, he changed his name again...

      And no, Americans do not spend more on their animals than they do charities, no matter how many times you write it.
      It will not make it true.
      Adding in different parameters for a debate after one is proven wrong shows how one will do anything to win...even when one is greivously wrong...time and again.
      Be a real man, admit mistakes, and move along.
      And pretending that one cannot write Anericans is really just rather silly.

      March 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy and @chrissy, you guys have me cracking up and I mean really. @philip or whatever you're calling yourself this hour, shut it before you change into a pillar of salt.

      March 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. A mericans

    Housepet slavers stand in stark opposition to the working class animal. Oh, they say they "love" animals, yet are scared to death to go camping near any of them. You love animals with collars around their necks. Some of you even collar the human animal in your bedrooms as has been reported. No wonder some of you would rather keep the gov and God out of your rooms.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chrissy

    What a freakin sicko! Im really sick of hearing your bedroom antics philip, youve got a severely demented mind! And frankly, its none of your business how much money i or anyone else spends on their pets!

    March 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. A mericans

    Not all pet cats are scaredy cats. I used to have a cat that would jump in the back of my pickup truck and go to the store with me. Cat's with owners who are aprehensious or afraid of going outside...people whom would rather just stay home...their pet cats pick-up on this. If the big strong feeder person is a little skiddish, I best hide under the bed. If you truly loved the mountain lion you would admire him rather than being afraid of him. Ditto God's word.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chrissy

    And if you and mother mary wanta put collars on each others necks, do us ALL a favor and get the *shock* variety!

    March 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. A mericans

    The CIA will be doing just that in the near future, Chrissy. Just like the Waffen SS grew and turned to investigating German citizens rather than taking-over Poland, Chekoslovakia, France, etc. ONce the Waffen SS rounded-up all of the "workshy individuals" (from the exact words used by Hitler concerningthe number one targeted group: lazy people) they went to work on other citizens to enslave including any Catholics whom would side with Hitler and any Jews who wouldn't.Our own CIA will be done after Iran and venezuela go down. Welcome home boys. I say start with military enytlement fraud. Then drug money MD's.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    Pretending that Americans speaks for Americans is about the same as Americans also speaks for God.
    Neither is true. At all.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Is this the same CIA that you were accusing of kidnapping over 500 children a day, sellng them all over the world as s3x slaves? You change your stories so often, it's hard to keep up.
    New thhwories so arise, but writing them as fact is really rather disengenuos...and almost downright hilarios...these are all your opinion. State is as such.

    I truly wish CNN wiuld just delete this while thread.
    None of this has anything to do with this race, just as the thread on the tornado destruction had anything to do with HIV, bc, being gay, or God.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    Was that comment intended to scare me philip? Cuz i assure you it does not. As im not frauding anyone and my pets are treated better than most peoples children and certainly better than YOU treat most people!

    March 4, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chrissy

    And if i were you i would be most concerned that global warming may burst that bubble you live in!

    March 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tanska

    What revisionist rot of Hiltler's German tactics! You should be very careful of the lies youu spew. You sound like an anti-jewish pariot for genocide within America. Hateful.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    I have yet to see one thing that this person is NOT against.
    I cannot stand to read such wretched words from an obviously tortured obviously unhappy.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      Philip take your meds.Unless of course they are made by Bayer. Of course that will be another rant. Is one of your other screen names Jazzy?

      March 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nicki

    I myself love Huskies. It's amazing how much they look like Wolves yet are not. Beautiful! I also would be just fine conversing with animals *only* for the rest of my life as people seem to be far more dangerous.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chrissy

    lmao @ nicki, i totally agree! As evidenced on this thread particularly eh? But sadly enough some people are just born to make others miserable!

    March 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicki

      Sorry chrissy, I don't get involved in others disputes. Nice to have meant you though.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5