Citing “less-than-winter conditions,” and encroaching suburban development, Iditarod officials are moving the famous dog race’s starting point 30 miles north from Wasilla to Willow. They’re also shortening the first, ceremonial leg of the competition (the short, easier race that precedes the harsh, longer race to Nome) by seven miles.
This isn’t the first time officials have had to change the traditional sled dog race’s route. Just six years ago, a lack of snow forced them to move the 1122-mile-long race’s start point 200 miles north, from Wasilla to Fairbanks. And even now, they have to truck in snow for the ceremonial start.
Warm weather isn’t the only element threatening the Iditarod: Increasing suburban development has crunched in previously wide-open spaces. “No matter what the weather conditions would be, there’s a lot of asphalt and other things that don’t mix well with competitive racing,” said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee. “To be around that is stressful for the dogs.”