Musher Chuck Schaeffer and his team charge down Anchorage's 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod sled sog race in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, March 7, 2015. A lack of snow forced race organizers to move the official start of the race to Fairbanks, but the ceremonial start remained in Anchorage. (AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes)  KTUU-TV OUT; KTVA-TV OUT; THE MAT-SU VALLEY FRONTIERSMAN OUT

Musher Chuck Schaeffer and his team charge down Anchorage's 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod sled sog race in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, March 7, 2015. A lack of snow forced race organizers to move the official start of the race to Fairbanks, but the ceremonial start remained in Anchorage. (AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes) KTUU-TV OUT; KTVA-TV OUT; THE MAT-SU VALLEY FRONTIERSMAN OUT

Iditarod show goes on despite lack of snow

  • By Mark Thiessen
  • Saturday, March 7, 2015 10:28pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — If there is one day when mushers in the Iditarod sled dog race don’t have to worry about trail conditions, it should be Saturday during the ceremonial start.

A lack of snow south of the Alaska Range created treacherous trail conditions, forcing race officials to move the competitive start of the race to Monday in Fairbanks. A stalled jet stream pushed Arctic air and snow into the Midwest and the East Coast, but kept Alaska fairly warm and dry this winter. But the ceremonial start, a chance for fans and mushers to meet in a casual atmosphere, went on as planned in Alaska’s largest city.

Despite the city receiving only about a third of its normal winter snowfall, Anchorage was still able to stage the traditional ceremonial start to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. City crews overnight delivered up to 350 dump truck loads of snow and spread it out over city blocks so the show could go on. The festivities started Saturday morning in very un-Iditarod like conditions, almost 40 degrees with a light rain falling before the start.

City maintenance workers stockpiled snow from neighborhoods the past few months and kept it for winter events, culminating with the Iditarod, said Paul VanLandingham with the public works department.

This event is designed for fans who can’t be on the rugged thousand-mile trail stretching from Fairbanks to Nome.

Mushers took off from the start line along Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue every two minutes. Fans lined the streets and cheered on the mushers and their Iditariders, who are people who have won auctions to be in the sled. The route covered 19 city blocks before it met up with the city’s trail system and ends in East Anchorage.

It’s a very relaxed atmosphere before the start. Fans arrive early Saturday morning to mingle with the mushers and pet one of the estimated thousand dogs that will be in the race.

Dan and Kathie Taylor of Akron, Ohio, made their second trip to Alaska after falling in love with the state during an earlier summertime visit. They were surprised how the city prepared.

“I didn’t know that they would bring in snow for this,” Kathie said. “We were wondering what would happen today.”

Kathie said she was struck by the “mushers and just their knowledge, and how they love their dogs unconditionally,” she said. “And how open they are to talk to everybody,” Dan added.

DeeDee Jonrowe, a musher who is a fan favorite, is in her 33rd Iditarod. She spent most of the morning signing autographs, posing for photos and greeting fans like they were long-lost friends.

“It’s an opportunity to show people the dogs I raise, and the quality of the dogs I raise,” she said. “I like that we have a day that we can give back.”

Musher Justin Savidis of Willow said the start is an opportunity to let the dogs shine in the spotlight and let them have some fun.

“You know, if you’re not having fun doing this, there’s no reason to do it,” he said.

Once the event ends, fans and mushers, with their dogs in tow, will drive about eight hours north to Fairbanks. On Monday, the atmosphere changes as mushers will become all about business for the start of the competitive race.

This year’s Iditarod includes 78 mushers, including six former champions and 20 rookies.

The winner will receive a bigger purse, $70,000, which is $19,600 more than what defending champion Dallas Seavey received last year.

The new route will remove the hazards of the Alaska Range, including the infamous Dalzell Gorge, where many mushers crashed last year trying to control dog teams moving at breakneck speeds over barren, gravelly trails. The change will put mushers on river ice for about 600 miles, which could create new problems along the unfamiliar route. The winner is expected under the burled arch in Nome, a Bering Sea coastal town, in about 10 days.

It’s the second time Fairbanks has hosted the official start of the race; similar low-snow conditions in 2003 also forced the start north.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More in News

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna’s city council appropriates funds for FY 2025 capital projects

Improvements are described for streets, police facility, Soldotna Creek Park and Soldotna Community Memorial Park

Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River open for dipnetting

As of Tuesday, a total of 226,000 sockeye had been counted in the Kenai River’s late run

Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly won’t pursue further discussion on tabled bed tax resolution

Members say they’re going to work on a new version of the idea this winter

Most Read