Due to unseasonably warm weather in Alaska, organizers of the Iditarod sled-dog race moved the course 225 miles north to a route where there is snow and ice. Much of the race’s usual start point has exposed gravel, according to the AP.
The ceremonial run through Anchorage takes place Saturday, but the official start on Monday has been moved over the Alaska Range to Fairbanks. Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley told the AP that the conditions were bad last year and worse this year. The new course, which officials had been looking at since January, will work around problem spots that tripped up mushers in 2014.
The new, flatter route avoids the mountainous Alaska Range and the Dalzell Gorge, but forces mushers to traverse 600 miles of river ice. Race director Mark Nordman told the AP that this could level the 78-musher playing field. “Nobody has a plan,” he said.
Dave Snider, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, told the AP that the jet stream has been bringing warm air in from the Pacific, leaving Anchorage with a third of its usual annual snowfall.
The race will run 968 miles from Fairbanks to Nome, plus the 11-mile ceremonial run through Anchorage. The winner is expected to reach Nome in about ten days.