Every year, dozens of tough-as-nails mushers and their equally resilient sled dogs race 1,000 miles through the brutal Alaskan wilderness in the Iditarod. Sled dog races, of course, require that there be snow on the ground.
The race is supposed to kick off on Saturday (March 5) with an 11-mile ceremonial route through Anchorage, Alaska. The race restarts the next day in Willow, about 40 miles north of Anchorage.
Usually, Anchorage has plenty of snow. But the city, along with the entire state of Alaska, has experienced an uncommonly warm winter this year. Alaska Dispatch News reported that Anchorage recorded just 1.8 inches of snow in February—and all of that fell on Feb. 21. What little snow had accumulated has melted.
To start the race this year, the Alaska Railroad plans to haul in seven cars full of snow from Fairbanks, 350 miles north of Anchorage. Race organizers say it’s the first time they’ve needed snow brought in from another location.
Even with the new snow, the ceremonial route through Anchorage will need to be shortened from 11 miles to just three.
“It’s no secret that warm temperatures for days on end have further eroded what little snow cover existed on the trail system here in Anchorage,” Stan Hooley, the Iditarod CEO, told Alaska Dispatch News.
This is the third year in a row that lack of snow has disrupted the famous race. In 2014, low levels of snow on part of the trail caused injuries that eliminated several mushers from the race. Last year, the restart had to be moved from Willow to Fairbanks, forcing race organizers to reroute 600 miles of the trail.
In total, Anchorage has received only 7.9 inches of snow since Dec. 1, according to AccuWeather.
Normally, it receives 60 inches.