The Board of Directors of the Iditarod Trail Committee held a special meeting earlier this evening to hear a final report from a four person trail committee which spent the day with race staff flying over various portions of the trail via helicopter. The Board was unanimous in making the decision to move the Race Restart to Fairbanks as it was determined that the conditions were worse in critical areas than in 2014 and therefore not safe enough for the upcoming Race.
The Iditarod is set to go ahead with its usually ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 7, but instead of restarting in Willow, Alaska, where the long-haul dog-sled race’s Northern Route traditionally begins, it will restart in Fairbanks, some 295 miles north. The only other Iditarod to veer from the course and start in Fairbanks was the 2003 iteration, which was won by Norway’s Robert Sorlie.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to make this very important decision this far out, but the task of getting tons of supplies and equipment in the right places, on time, begins this week,” race director Mark Nordman said in a statement.
Fairbanks officials, however, say they’re ready to make sure the new route goes smoothly. Having already helped out in 2003, Explore Fairbanks President Deb Hickok assures her team is already ahead of the game.
“I think there’s just a lot of differences between 2003 and 2015,” Hickok told the Fairbanks News Miner on Wednesday. “In 2003 it was a great unknown and we were definitely stressed about it, but all of us have experience now with this particular event.”
She added: “We’re really good as a community at rallying quickly and responding to something like this. … March is already our most popular winter month. We can handle it.”
Seventy-nine teams will compete to win the 979-mile race.