The 44th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been forced to move its starting location 360 miles north from Willow, Alaska, to Fairbanks, Alaska, due to low snow conditions. Much of the 1,000-mile trail has been determined by race officials to be unsafe for competitors. Volunteers and race staff attempted to groom particularly bad sections of the race but were unable too because of vegetation that would normally be covered by a thick blanket of snow.
Areas of trail in the Alaska Range have experienced a lot less precipitation this year than usual. In the past three years, two races have been unable to start from Anchorage due to limited snow. Many believe climate change to be the main culprit of the lack of snow. Race officials have reportedly been concerned about the effects of climate change on the race for several years. These concerns are currently materializing. The changed route will affect many towns and villages that depend on of the Iditarod for financial and cultural reasons. “It’s a different event, but it’s still the Iditarod. It’s still a world-class dog race with the best mushers in the world,” said Race Marshal Mark Nordman at a press conference last week.