[UPDATE Feb. 17 1:43 p.m.] Iditarod Trail officials confirmed Monday afternoon that the 2014 Iditarod re-start will remain in Willow.
The Iditarod Trail Committee will announce Monday if the re-start of the famous race to Nome will re-start at the usual Willow location or instead see a move north to Fairbanks.
Last week Iditarod Executive Director Stan Hooley said concerns over adequate snow cover along the trail from Willow to Nikolai pushed the trail committee to draft contingency plans for a Fairbanks restart.
“To characterize it, it's certainly less than ideal conditions,” Hooley said.
An official decision on just what route the 2014 Iditarod will take is expected after trail officials meet Monday at 10 a.m.
The northern restart would see mushers race from Fairbanks to Nenana, onto Manley and then Tanana, before re-joining the traditional northern route of the race at Ruby.
Even then, Hooley said the 2014 trail would see additional alterations: after following the traditional northern route from Ruby to Galena and on to Nulato and Kaltag, mushers would then jog south to Eagle Island, Grayling, and on to Anvik, three checkpoints only used on the southern route.
“It’s certainly been colder and they have more snow than we do. They may not be optimum or typical for the average year but they’re certainly adequate”
Mushers would then race back to Kaltag before continuing west to Unalakleet and on to Nome.
But the race’s snow troubles won’t stop when mushers hit the coast. Norton Sound checkpoints like Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, and Elim have also seen spare snowfall. Even worse, poor ice conditions that in the past have made up significant portions of the trail may not be available by the time mushers hit the coast.
“What you’ll see is that, for instance, rather than traveling across the ice, in places like let’s say Unalakleet to Koyuk, we’ll need to stay on land, which is certainly possible but it’s just different from how we’ve been able to run the race in the past,” Hooley said.
Changing the checkpoints at the last minute hasn’t been easy, Hooley admits . “It’s a little bit like making the decision to make a 180 when you’re piloting an aircraft carrier. You’re going to go a long way in the wrong direction before you finally get it turned around and going in the way you want.”
Regardless of where the race re-starts, Hooley said the race will still have its official start in Downtown Anchorage.
This is a developing story. Watch Channel 2 broadcasts or check KTUU.com for updates.