AP NEWS

Official: Iditarod mushers should expect deep trail snow

March 6, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Mushers in the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race should expect deep snow along much of the trail, an official said.

Race Director Mark Nordman says the theme for this year’s sled dog race may be “patience” as teams navigate heavy snow, Alaska Public Radio Network reported Thursday.

“It’s going to be a discussion amongst mushers, you know, just how they’re going to deal with it,” Nordman said. “As I told a couple people, I said, ‘You probably should be able to make sure you can get at your snowshoes if you want to get off the trail,’ which has not been the norm.”

The event is scheduled to kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Anchorage with hundreds of sled dogs pulling 57 mushers along city streets and trails for the ceremonial start.

The race is expected to begin the next day at 2 p.m. in Willow, north of Anchorage.

In addition to snow accumulated over the course of nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers), Iditarod mushers will likely encounter below-freezing temperatures, said Nordman, who has worked with the race for more than three decades.

“I’ve seen this amount of snow over all my years with it in different areas, but it just seems like it’s pretty much everywhere,” he said.

The conditions are expected to be a contrast to recent years, when little to no snow marked long sections of the trail and warm temperatures caused occasional rain and overflow.

The trail’s coastal stretch was almost free of sea ice last year, a rarity for mid-March.

Thick and consistent ice conditions are expected this year from Unalakleet heading north and west toward Nome, Nordman said.

Trail breakers on snowmachines cut a trail through the snow that is expected to create a trench in which teams can travel, he said.

A photograph showed a trail breaker standing in chest-deep snow in the area of the Happy River steps between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass.

“I think it’s just like if you were to get six feet 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow and you had to shovel a path to your house, that’s what we’re looking at right now,” Nordman said.