Despite a year of record snowfalls across Alaska, the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race has no plans to delay its start on Saturday, March 3.
The "Last Great Race on Earth," as it is often called, will begin in Anchorage, Alaska, and will span 975 miles across a northern route to its completion in Nome.
Known to be one of the toughest sled dog races in the world, the Iditarod hosts over 65 teams, averaging 15 dogs each, and thousands of spectators each year.
This March will mark the first-ever time the race will be under 1,000 miles, an adjustment that reflects a new ceremonial start, a change in the restart location and the actual year-to-year trail conditions.
Despite being the snowiest period on record for Anchorage since records have been kept, conditions look good for the race, which will be commemorating its 40th anniversary this year.
"The ideal conditions for the Iditarod will vary depending on the musher; however, I think most agree that adequate snow coverage of approximately 1 foot plus, plus temperatures that hover around 10 degrees F to -20 degrees F are perfect," Communications Director Erin McLarnon said. "However, it's rare you find these consistent conditions over 975 miles."
This year, mushers can anticipate 30-degree temperatures at the starting line in Anchorage with a chance for snow or flurries. Nighttime lows are expected to hit 14 degrees F.
Sunday, at the official restart in Willow, mushers will see partly cloudy skies with a high of 26 degrees F and a low of 6 degrees.
Towards the end of the week, as racers rush toward Nikolai, temperatures will be in the low single digits, with chances of snow and ice mixed with rain.
"All in and in this should be a good trail year. Of course we can encounter unpredictable storms during the race that can affect mushers, depending where they are along the trail."
On Sunday, Yentna Station, the first official checkpoint after the restart in Willow, received over 3 feet of snow. Roughly 80 air miles away in Anchorage, there was only a dusting.
"The entire 975 miles has its challenges, but at this time we aren't expecting anything out of the ordinary," McLarnon said.