Mushers: Trail conditions 'never better' coming into Rainy Pass

MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - After skipping the Iditarod’s southern route, and in two of the last three years the entire southern portion of the trail altogether, due to a lack of snow, trail conditions in 2018 are looking great as racers make their way through the Alaska Range.

Mitch Seavey pulls into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during Iditarod 2018.

“It’s about as good as I’ve ever seen it,” said defending race champ, Mitch Seavey, in the Rainy Pass checkpoint Monday.

One portion of the trail into Rainy Pass had been re-routed slightly. “I don’t think any of us knew about that hill,” musher Nic Petit said of the new route along Round Mountain.

“I don’t know that I like that new re-route. I think it’s more miles and a lot more hills,” said veteran musher Kelly Maixner.

But on the trail as a whole, things have been “never better,” said Petit, who’s considered one of the strong contenders in this year’s race.

“Coming down that steep stuff was fun, instead of scary,” said Willow musher Linwood Fiedler. “As a survivor of the 2014 Iditarod,” he continued, “with no snow, coming down that stuff, and now with permanent post-traumatic stress, it was really nice to get down that and not be scared to death,” he said with a chuckle.

In McGrath, nearly 160 miles up the trail from Rainy Pass, Mark Cox, the checkpoint coordinator, says it’s a great year for snow. “I think this year’s about as good as you can ask for,” Cox said standing in front of a three-and-a-half-foot snow berm adjacent to the Kuskokwim River. Cox said fresh snow in the past couple of weeks may slow down mushers a bit – like running on sand rather than pavement – but that the trail hasn’t seen snow like this in about five years.

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