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ANCHORAGE -- Too little snow and open water has forced organizers to cancel the Klondike 300 Sled Dog Race, a mid-distance qualifier for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
"We just don't have any snow. We don't even have enough ice," race secretary Bob Spears said Monday.
Race organizers decided Sunday that they would have to cancel Saturday's race. Ten mushers were entered. The race, begun in 1992, has never been canceled before.
The race, which originally was scheduled for Jan. 20, was postponed until Jan. 27 with hopes that winter would finally arrive in Alaska.
Race organizers tried changing the halfway point from Petersville to Finger Lake where conditions were better. When conditions deteriorated at Finger Lake, they talked about switching back to Petersville. The final straw came when temperatures rose above 40 degrees for several days, coating the trail with ice, Spears said.
Rookies hoping to qualify for the Iditarod are getting desperate, he said. About half of the mushers entered in the Klondike 300 needed the race to qualify for the Iditarod, Spears said.
Organizers of the Tustumena 200, another Iditarod qualifier held on the Kenai Peninsula, decided Sunday to postpone the race until Feb. 3. The race also was scheduled for Saturday.
There's no snow in the lower elevations, said race official Nema Arndt. The race, which is run in the Caribou Hills, begins at 150 feet above sea level and rises to 3,000 feet.
"We'll see what Mother Nature does with the snow," she said.
In late December, the Knik 200 Sled Dog Race, also an Iditarod qualifier, was canceled because of the weather.
More than a half-dozen rookies who are signed up to run the Iditarod in early March are not yet qualified, said race director Joanne Potts. Eighty-two mushers are entered and 29 are rookies.
Race rules require rookies to have completed a 200-mile qualifier and a 300-mile qualifier within three racing seasons of the Iditarod. Rookies must finish the qualifying races within twice the winning finish times.
Potts said one rookie is considering entering qualifiers in the Lower 48. Several races there are coming up, including the Wyoming Rocky Mountain Stage Stop, Minnesota's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and Montana's Race to the Sky.