Iditarod restart may be moved up to Fairbanks

A change of this magnitude would be unprecedented for 30-year-old race

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Iditarod race organizers met Saturday morning to explore the feasibility of holding the March 2 restart in Fairbanks because of dismal trail conditions to the south, mushers said.

"It's sure looking like the weather calls for it," veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe said. "I think it's a really good alternative. If it's between that and not having the race, this is great."

Such an extreme change would be unprecedented in the 30-year history of the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

Mushers said race organizers plan to meet with Fairbanks officials on Monday to work out logistics.

Race officials were mum about their plans.

"I really can't say anything," race director Joanne Potts said Saturday night. "The board will make a decision Tuesday and then an announcement."

The timing is crucial because Wednesday is the food drop-off deadline for mushers participating in the 31st Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

According to mushers, officials were busy notifying them about the likely new route, which would travel from Fairbanks to Nenana, Manley, Tanana, Ruby, Cripple and Ophir before linking back to the southern route traveled on odd-numbered years.

There's hope the March 1 ceremonial start will remain in Anchorage. But this year's spring-like temperatures have created treacherous conditions along the route near the traditional restart site in Wasilla and beyond. Mushers say the risk of injuring their dogs is great.

Randy Chappel, a rookie from Arlington, Texas, said he reacted to the news with mixed feelings. A part of him was disappointed that he would not get to experience a classic route in the famous race.

"A bigger part of me is glad that these people are working so hard to make sure there's a race somewhere," he said. "At least I can experience part of the original trail. And it might be a good excuse so I can come back and try it again."

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