ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Rain has ruined the 2019 Willow 300 dog sled race. Race organizers canceled the event when trail damage caused by warm, wet weather was too pervasive to keep up with, Christine Stitt, the race's director and organizer told KTUU early Tuesday afternoon.
The 300-mile, three-day mid-distance race is among the events long distance mushers use to qualify for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.
"We were good up until last night when it started raining," Stitt said.
"It is just not safe for musher, dog or machines and we just won't put anyone in that position," she said.
Temperatures above freezing and continued rainfall wrecked sections previously repaired, and water crossings were deemed too dangerous, Stitt said.
Thirty-four mushers who'd signed up, including Mat-Su Borough mayor Vern Halter, and Iditarod veterans Anna and Kristy Berington, Nick Petit, Wade Marrs, and Cim Smyth, will receive refunded entry fees, less the required $25 membership fee to be a part of the Willow Dog Mushers Association. Memberships will carry forward one year, Stitt said.
The race was scheduled to start Thursday morning on Willow Lake.
"It was heartbreaking," said Stitt, reached by phone as she was notifying mushers of the cancellation, writing refund checks, and hoping a junior race scheduled the following week, which races on a mountainous trial instead of valleys and lowlands, would remain unaffected.