FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's competitive starting point could move hundreds of miles north to Fairbanks because of poor trail conditions.
Race officials sent an email to mushers Friday saying the conditions in the Alaska Range may force the 1,000-mile race to start in Fairbanks instead of Willow, which is about 50 miles north of Anchorage, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1d6RSWf ).
Race officials said a decision on the starting point will be made on Feb. 17.
"We do have trail concerns from the top of Rainy Pass to Nikolai," Iditarod race manager Mark Nordman wrote in an email. "Because of these concerns, a contingency plan will be used if the Alaska Range conditions are not acceptable."
The ceremonial kickoff is scheduled for March 1 in Anchorage and the official start is set for the next day in Willow. If the race moves to Fairbanks, the competitive start would move to March 3 to give mushers time to drive 360 miles north. The ceremonial start date would remain the same.
An email to the Iditarod Trail Committee from The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned.
Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King said Saturday that he's not bothered by a possible change in location. King said he trusts the judgment of Iditarod officials to provide the safest trail possible for dogs and mushers.
"If they feel the need to change it, then we need to change it," King told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "I don't want to go from the Alaska Range to Nikolai with no snow; it's not safe."
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com